KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber detonated Saturday in a crowd in northern Afghanistan gathered for a traditional sporting event, killing three and injuring 40.
Saturday's attack was another in a series across the country in which civilians were targeted, as Afghan forces prepare to take over security responsibilities from U.S.-led international forces.
"Some participants identified the attacker and started fleeing, but still the attacker was able to detonate his vest," said the governor of Faryab province, Abdul Haq Shafaq. Had spectators not fled, "a big catastrophe could happened," he said.
In a separate incident Saturday, nine civilians were killed in the southeast province of Khost, which borders Pakistan, according to an Interior Ministry statement. Two women and four children were among the dead after their vehicle struck a landmine, the statement said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the Faryab attack, but the governor blamed the Taliban.
"They have been defeated militarily, therefore they carry out suicide attacks that are difficult to prevent," Shafaq said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack.
"In the last few days the enemies of the Afghan people with their inhuman actions showed that they are always trying to target public buildings and residential areas with their barbaric attacks to kill innocent people," Karzai said in a statement.
The attack occurred in Sherin Tagab district, about 50km northeast of provincial capital of Maimona, as people gathered to see buzkashi, said Col. Mohammad Sadiq, deputy police chief for the province.
Buzkashi is a traditional Central Asian team sport in which horsemen attempt, at full gallop, to grab a dead goat from the ground and put it across a goal line.
Faryab is a northwestern province, sharing a border with Turkmenistan.
A 5-year-old child was among the dead, and six of the injured were in serious condition, said Sadiq.
Saturday's assault was the latest in a series of attacks on civilian targets. On Feb. 19, a group of assailants armed with guns and explosives targeted a private bank in the eastern city of Jalalabad, killing more than 30 and injuring 60 others.
On Monday, a suicide attacker detonated his explosives in a census center, killing more than 30 and injuring dozens more in the northern province of Kunduz.
(Shukoor is a McClatchy special correspondent.)
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