KABUL, Afghanistan – The pro-Western governor of a key northern Afghanistan province and at least 18 other people were killed Friday in a massive explosion as they prayed in a crowded mosque, officials said.
Mohammed Omar, the governor of Kunduz province, had warned of the dangers of the growing influence of the Taliban and other insurgent groups across a wide swath of Afghanistan’s north.
His death was the latest in a string of deadly assaults on Afghan government officials, including a deputy governor who was assassinated earlier this month in Ghazni province. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Afghan authorities blamed insurgents.
Omar, who was not related to the Taliban supreme leader of the same name, had survived at least two previous assassination attempts.
“I don’t think about these threats,” he said in an interview last year with the Los Angeles Times. “Everyone is in danger.”
The governor was killed in the capital of Taher province, which borders Kunduz. It was his native province and he often visited, especially on Fridays, the main prayer day of the Muslim week.
The bombing devastated a landmark mosque in the city of Taloqan, injuring dozens of worshippers. Bloodstained victims staggered out of the shattered building.
Taher province, like Kunduz, has been the scene of a buildup by insurgents who have targeted a northern supply route used by NATO. The two provinces are also used as an infiltration route by foreign Islamist militants from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Western and Afghan officials have said.