Death Toll in Afghan Bombing at 52

KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 7 — The death toll from a suicide bombing in northern Afghanistan rose to 52 on Wednesday, making it the worst single suicide bombing in the country since 2001, government officials said.
Among the dead were 18 schoolchildren, four teachers and six members of Parliament, including one of the country’s most promising young politicians.

The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, declared a three-day period of national mourning as the normally quiet northern province of Baghlan reeled from the deaths.

On Tuesday, a suicide attacker detonated a large bomb as a parade of schoolchildren, teachers and elders welcomed a parliamentary delegation from Kabul. “Based on the tally by the police department,” said Mohammad Alam Rasikh, the provincial governor, “so far, 52 people were found dead and 102 are injured.”

The leader of the National Front, the parliamentary group whose young spokesman, Mustafa Kazimi, died in the attack, questioned the government’s explanation of a lone suicide bomber and said he had received reports of shots being fired. He also questioned why no members of the provincial government were present at the attack.

“There is a question why the provincial officials were not with their parliamentarian guests,” Burhanuddin Rabbani, the leader of the National Front, told an Afghan television station. “And it is a question why there was shooting after the explosion.”

A White House news release said President Bush called Mr. Karzai on Tuesday to offer sympathy and encouragement.

In a news conference, Mr. Karzai said the attack was carried out by “the enemies of peace and security,” a phrase that he uses frequently for the Taliban insurgents who carried out over 116 suicide attacks in this year. “There is no doubt it was a terrorist attack,” he said.

The attack reverberated in Kabul on Wednesday. The bombing occurred in a part of the country that is considered relatively safe and showed that the Taliban could carry out strikes across the country.

Afghan television stations broadcast videotape from Baghlan of family members of the victims mourning their loved ones. The bodies of the six Parliament members were flown to Kabul, covered in Afghan flags.

Zohor Afghan, a spokesman for the Ministry of Education, said that along with 18 schoolchildren and 4 teachers killed, another 25 students and 5 teachers were wounded. He said the tally could still rise.

“This number is not final,” Mr. Afghan said. “We are trying to find out the exact number of casualties.”

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