A suicide bomber has killed Afghanistan's deputy chief of intelligence,
along with at least 22 other people -- including several top provincial
officials. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
Afghan authorities say the bombing occurred Wednesday morning in the
middle of a crowd leaving a mosque in the city of Mehtarlam in Laghman
province, about 100 kilometers east of Kabul.
The Taliban says intelligence deputy chief Abdullah Laghmani, who was
in the crowd, was the target. At least 35 people were injured.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai called the attack a "vicious act" of
terrorists. The U.S. embassy in Kabul also released a statement
condemning the violence.
In other news, the United Nations says opium production in Afghanistan has declined for a second consecutive year.
A report issued Wednesday by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime says poppy cultivation is down 22 percent this year (123,000 hectares this year, compared to 157,000 in 2008). Poppy flowers are used to produce opium, the key ingredient in heroin.
The report says Afghan farmers are making less money on their poppy crops, causing them to switch to more lucrative crops.
Cultivation even was down in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand province in the south.
The U.S. embassy in Kabul issued a statement saying the report
underscores that the new U.S. counter-narcotics strategy is fundamental
to combating the insurgency in Afghanistan. Western officials believe
the country's opium trade helps to fund militant groups such as the
The executive director of the U.N. drug agency, Antonio Maria Costa,
says the "the bottom is starting to fall out of the Afghan opium
Afghanistan produces about 90 percent of the world's opium.