A suicide bomber struck outside government buildings in northern Afghanistan on Monday, killing 14 people including a local politician in the latest attack to target provincial officials.
Emergency services rushed to the scene and took the wounded to hospital after the bomber, who was wearing police uniform, blew himself up next to Rasoul Mohseni, the head of Baghlan's provincial council.
Also among the dead were seven police guards and several other people waiting to speak to Mohseni, who was walking into the government offices in Pul-e-Khumri city when he was killed.
"I collected information from different hospitals and the death toll is 14. Another nine people are wounded," Zubair Akbary, the provincial public health director, told the AFP news agency.
Taliban insurgents said they had deliberately targeted Mohseni, who was head of the provincial council, an elected body in each of Afghanistan's 34 provinces that liaises between residents and the local government.
"One of our mujahideen conducted today's attack, and killed Mohseni and 11 of his friends," spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said. "He was corrupt and an anti-Taliban man. We are very happy to have achieved our aim."
'Enemies of Afghanistan'
Khalil Musadeq, the chief of the Pul-e-Khumri hospital, confirmed that at least 11 people, including Mohseni, were killed in the blast.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack and blamed the bombing on the "enemies of Afghanistan", a phrase Afghan officials often use to refer to the Taliban. He said that the attack was "a cowardly act against all Islamic teachings and human values".
Pul-e-Khumri is the capital of Baghlan, a province located in the more peaceful north of Afghanistan but which sees regular attacks by Taliban insurgents.
As international troops withdraw from the country, the Taliban has increasingly targeted Afghan politicians, government officials and the security forces.
The insurgents launched their annual "spring offensive" last month vowing to use suicide blasts to inflict maximum casualties and warning Afghans working for President Karzai's regime to distance themselves from the government.
Monday's attack came a day after at least 10 Afghan police were killed in separate incidents.
In one of the incidents, Taliban fighters attacked a security check post in the Muqur district of Ghazni province, killing six police.
Afghan security forces are moving onto the front line against the insurgents, and suffering heavier casualties, as the 100,000 NATO combat troops prepare to exit by the end of next year.
On Friday, two car bombs exploded in a sprawling housing development in the southern province of Kandahar, killing at least nine people and wounding more than 60.