Suicide Bomber Kills At Least 11 At Kabul Rally For Northern Governor

KABUL -- At least 11 people have been killed in a suicide attack on a Kabul rally by supporters of Mohammad Atta Noor, the powerful governor of Afghanistan's northern Balkh Province.

Noor, an outspoken critic of President Ashraf Ghani's national-unity government and a former factional militia leader in the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, was not attending the November 16 rally at the time of the attack.

Kabul police told RFE/RL that at least nine police officers and two civilians were among those killed in the suicide bombing. Police said at least seven officers were injured in the blast.

The attack took place at the Naveen Palace wedding hall in Kabul's Khair Khana neighborhood while the rally was going on inside the building.

Afghanistan's Defense Ministry said the attacker wore a suicide vest and tried to enter the building but was stopped outside the entrance by security officials.

A ministry spokesman told RFE/RL the attacker detonated his explosives when police stopped him.

Noor is the chief executive of the mainly ethnic Tajik Jamiat-e Islami party -- one of the key factions of the so-called Northern Alliance that fought against the Taliban regime before it was ousted by the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.

Noor has hinted that he may run for president in 2019.

In the initial months after the downfall of the Taliban regime, Noor's militia fighters clashed repeatedly in northern Afghanistan with fighters loyal to another former Northern Alliance commander, ethnic Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum.

But Noor and Dostum, who is now one of two vice presidents in Ghani's government, recently resolved their differences and have agreed to form a political alliance, together with ethnic Hazara Deputy Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqiq, aimed at bolstering the number of Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara officials in the central government.

Dostum's political compact with President Ghani, a Pashtun, began to unravel after Dostum was accused in December 2016 of ordering an elderly political rival to be sodomized with a Kalashnikov.

Dostum has refused to cooperate with the attorney general in the case and claims the allegations against him are a form of blackmail aimed at stripping him of his authority.

Dostum fled to Turkey in May.

In July, Noor and Mohaqiq traveled to Turkey where they met with Dostum to form their new alliance, which they call the Coalition for the Salvation of Afghanistan.