KABUL, Afghanistan — The governor of a northern Afghan province that has been increasingly beset by violence was killed Friday afternoon, along with at least 19 other people, when a bomb blast tore through prayer services at a mosque in a neighboring province, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.
Mohammed Omar, the governor of Kunduz, was a regular attendee at the Shirkat mosque in Taloqan, the capital of Takhar province, where he was born and kept a home. Afghan officials said they think he was the intended target of the bombing.
U.S. and Afghan officials condemned the attack, taking particular note of the brutality of detonating a bomb among civilians in a house of worship. President Hamid Karzai described the bombing in a statement as "one of the major attacks on human beings and Islam."
Omar and his nephew had come to the mosque for Friday prayers, as the governor routinely did. When Omar entered and the service began, a few people stood up and left just moments before a remote-controlled bomb exploded in the room, said Haji Kher Mohammed, Takhar's deputy police chief.
"Mohammed Omar always stood against the enemies of Afghanistan," Haji Kher Mohammed said.
An Interior Ministry spokesman said investigators had not concluded whether the attack involved a suicide bomber or a remotely triggered explosive.
Before Omar became governor of Kunduz, he served as the governor of Baghlan, another neighboring province. He fought in the guerrilla resistance against the Soviet Union in the 1980s and in the ensuing civil war as a commander allied with Abdurrab Rasul Sayyaf, a Northern Alliance militia leader.
As governor, Omar was staunchly anti-Taliban and deeply committed to halting the spread of the insurgency in Kunduz, according to those who worked with him.
He had asked NATO forces to resist the Taliban in Kunduz, said a former Afghan intelligence official based in Kunduz who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.