Afghanistan in mourning after attack kills 60

New Baghlan, November 7:

President Hamid Karzai declared three days of mourning for victims of a suicide blast targeting a group of lawmakers and children, as the death toll today rose to 60, making it the deadliest attack in Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion.

Hundreds of mourners gathered at a mosque near the site of the bombing in the town of New Baghlan, 150 km north of Kabul, before moving to a simple hilltop graveyard to bury the dead.

The numbers of the dead rose steadily throughout the day as officials collected information from village elders and families who buried their loved ones. The Ministry of Education confirmed that at least 18 schoolchildren had been killed.

Karzai, joined by dozens of other Afghan leaders, watched honour guards carry the coffins of the six lawmakers from a helicopter and down a red carpet at Kabul’s main airport today.

Karzai ordered an investigation into the attack. “There is no doubt this was a terrorist attack,” Karzai told a news conference in Kabul. He blamed the bombing on “the enemies of peace and security,” a phrase often used for the militant Taliban, and directed authorities to conduct a thorough investigation. Such a spectacular attack also could have been the work of Al Qaeda. The Taliban denied involvement.

In Washington, the White House called the attack “a despicable act of cowardice.”

Meanwhile, unknown gunmen riding motorbikes shot dead Din Mohammad, a provincial legislator in southern Helmand province, officials said today, in an assassination similar to others blamed on Taliban insurgents.