ASADABAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed 10 people in an attack on Wednesday on peace talks between tribal elders in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province, a volatile area where insurgents have gained ground in recent months.
The attack took place in Asmaar district when elders from two tribes, some of them former warlords, were meeting to resolve a local dispute, provincial police chief Khalilullah Ziaee said.
The suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of the group, targeting former mujahideen commander Mohammad Zarin, who died along with nine others. At least seven people were wounded, Ziaee said.
“It was the work of the Taliban because they do not want elders to work toward peace,” Ziaee told Reuters from Kunar.
The Taliban frequently carry out suicide attacks in against Afghan and NATO troops and government officials, and in the past have targeted former mujahideen leaders they consider corrupt, or the head of rival armed groups.
However a spokesman for the militants denied responsibility for the attack in Asmaar.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai strongly condemned the bombing, saying it was the work of people who want to suppress the efforts of Afghan people to seek peace.
Zarin fought the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan during the 1980s, before the fall of the Moscow-backed Kabul government.
Violence in Afghanistan last year reached the highest levels since the austere Taliban government was overthrown by U.S.-led Afghan forces in late 2001, with record casualties on all sides.
The number of civilians killed in Afghanistan in 2010 rose 15 percent from the previous year to 2,777, according to the United Nations, with insurgents responsible for around three-quarters of those deaths.
Kunar shares a long and porous border with lawless areas of neighboring Pakistan which insurgents use as a safe haven to gather their forces and from which to launch attacks against Afghan government and its Western backers.
Last week, Afghan officials said a joint operation by Afghan and NATO-led forces killed around 130 militants in two districts of Kunar. The Taliban still controls another district in the province they overran weeks ago.
Reporting by Rohullah Anwari; Writing by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani