A suicide bomber who officials say hid explosives inside his turban struck a mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar during a memorial service for Ahmad Wali Karzai, the younger half-brother of President Hamid Karzai who was assassinated in the city earlier this week.
Kandahar regional officials said three people and the bomber were killed and 15 others were injured when the bomber set off his explosives in front of the mihrab, the area of the mosque where the prayer leader stands.
Speaking to journalists, Kandahar Governor Tooryalai Wesa condemned the attack, which took the life of prayer leader Maulavi Hekmatullah Hekmat, head of Kandahar's Ulema Council of Islamic scholars.
Wesa said the attack was "against Islam and the culture of Pashtuns and Kandaharis. As a result, the head of our Ulema Council was martyred along with a teenaged boy and another local resident. Fifteen people were injured."
Kandahar officials said several senior Afghan government officials had left the service shortly before the attack at 12:15 p.m. local time and were unharmed.
Local resident Zahir Jan witnessed the blast and told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal "It's very bad to carry out suicide attacks inside a mosque. What kind of martyrdom is this? Everyone going to a mosque is offering prayers. So why a blast there?"
The attack comes just a day after several unsuccessful bomb attacks targeted government officials as they traveled to Ahmad Wali Karzai's funeral in Kandahar.
Karzai, one of the country's most influential and controversial figures, was shot dead by a close family associate at his home in Kandahar on July 12.
Civilian Casualties Rise
Also today, the United Nations issued a report stating that civilian casualties in Afghanistan were up 15 percent in the first half of this year.
According to the report, 1,462 civilians have been killed so far this year, meaning that 2011 is on track to eclipse 2010 as the deadliest year in the decade-long war. The report also documented the targeted killings of 190 Afghan government or security officials so far this year.
Presenting the report's findings to journalists in Kabul, UN official Georgette Gagnon said: "May 2011 was the deadliest month for Afghan civilians since 2007. In June of this year, a further 360 civilian deaths were recorded."
The report says that insurgents were responsible for 80 percent of the civilian deaths, while NATO forces caused 14 percent.
with RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, Radio Mashaal, and agency reports