KABUL, Afghanistan - A suicide bomber struck a funeral gathering Sunday in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 19 people, including a member of parliament, and heightening fears of an accelerating slide into violence in a part of the country that was once relatively peaceful.
The attack, which also left dozens of mourners injured, happened in Taloquan, the capital of Takhar province, north of Kabul. Relatively few coalition troops are present there, and the insurgents are thought to be gaining strength.
The slain lawmaker was Abdul Matlab Baik, a well-known anti-Taliban figure. A provincial spokesman, Faiz Mohammad Tawhidi, said officials believed he was deliberately targeted. Baik had been provincial police chief and was a deputy minister of tribal affairs in the government of President Hamid Karzai.
Assassinations of public officials and tribal elders have increased the last two years across Afghanistan - an insurgent tactic meant to intimidate those who ally themselves with the Karzai government.
Karzai, along with the U.S. Embassy and NATO's International Security Assistance Force, condemned the attack. Gen. John Allen, U.S. commander of Western troops in Afghanistan, called it "barbaric."