Center for Strategic Communication

A suicide bomber killed 23 people, including a prominent Afghan member of parliament, the western zone police commander, a provincial intelligence chief, and several senior Afghan officials, in an attack at a wedding in the northern province of Samangan today. The attack was very likely carried out by the al Qaeda and Taliban-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

The suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a wedding hall in Aybak, the provincial capital of Samangan. The wedding was for the daughter of Ahmad Khan Samangani, a Member of Parliament and mujahideen commander who fought the Soviets during the 1980s. The suicide bomber detonated his explosives as the wedding party was receiving guests.

Among those killed were Samangani; Syed Ahmad Sami, the commander of police forces in Afghanistan’s western zone; Khan Mohamad, the chief of the National Directorate of Security in Samangan; and Zalmai Younisi, a leader of the Jamaat-i-Islami. Also reported killed were the former governor of Samangan, a senator, and another member of parliament; their deaths have not been confirmed, however. Samangani’s daughter and her husband survived the attack. More than 60 of the estimated 100 wedding guests were wounded.

The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack, and instead put the blame on political rivals. Samangani, an ethnic Uzbek, was a political opponent of General Abdul Rashid Dostum, a powerful Uzbek warlord in the Afghan north.

“We don’t have a hand in this issue,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told Reuters. “Ahmad Khan was a former commander of the mujahideen, he was notorious and many people could have had problems with him.”

“Samangani had personal enmity. It’s not yet clear whether it was a suicide attack or a blast,” Mujahid told Pajhwok Afghan News.

However the attack was very likely carried out by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the al Qaeda and Taliban-linked terror group that has integrated its leadership and operations with the Taliban in the Afghan north.

The IMU is known to have a presence in Samangan province. In March 2011, the International Security Assistance Force said the terror group ran “multiple IMU training camps” in the province as well as in neighboring Sar-i-Pul. ISAF captured the IMU’s leader of the camps, and killed two senior IMU commanders in March 2011.

The IMU has claimed credit for several suicide attacks in the north, including the November 2011 assault on a US Provincial Reconstruction Team in the peaceful province of Panjshir. At the end of November 2011, the IMU claimed that 87 of its members were killed during operations in Afghanistan; many of those killed died in suicide attacks. The IMU commanders and fighters listed as “martyred” were from Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Germany, and Russia.

The IMU has carried out similar suicide operations that have killed top Afghan officials in the north. In October 2010, a suicide bomber killed Governor Muhammad Omar as he worshiped in a mosque in neighboring Takhar province. Omar had been vocal in his opposition to the Taliban, and had consistently warned of the spread of the Taliban and allied terror groups in the Afghan north.

In March 2011, a suicide bomber killed General Abdul Rahman Sayedkhili, the provincial chief of police for Kunduz in Kunduz city.

In May 2011, a suicide bomber assassinated General Daud, the top police commander in the north, as he was meeting with ISAF’s commander for the north. The ISAF general was wounded in the attack.

And in December 2011, a suicide bomber killed 20 Afghan civilians, including Abdul Mutalib Baig, a member of parliament and former provincial police commander, in an attack at a funeral in the northern province of Takhar.