Nine people were killed and several more wounded on Monday morning when a bomb exploded at a busy marketplace in northern Afghanistan.
The bomb, which was detonated remotely, went off at the busy main bazaar of the Ghormuch district, which is in the Faryab province bordering Turkmenistan. The L.A. Times reports that Amanullah Shahabzai, a local council member from a nearby district, was among those killed in the blast. It is unclear whether he was purposely targeted.
We are still trying to figure out if the main target of the bombing was the killed member of the provincial council, but so far it seems that their target was the civilian shoppers, said Faryab police spokesman Said Masod Yaqobi to the New York Times.
Yaqobi said that the attack could be the work of Taliban insurgents.
The enemy doesn't have a constant presence in the district and normally resorts to planting improvised explosive devices and remotely controlled bombs, he said.
However, Voice of America reports that the Taliban has denied responsibility.
The incident comes one day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced the beginning of the third phase -- called Tranche Three -- of a five-phase handover of power from NATO troops to Afghan security forces.
In this new phase, 122 districts and 11 whole provinces will be transitioned out of NATO jurisdiction. If Tranche Three progresses as expected, 75 percent of the country will soon be under local control.
Hopes for stability following NATO's planned withdrawal were dampened by Monday's bombing as well as by other recent episodes of violence. On Sunday, a high-profile Afghan peacemaker and former Taliban member Arsala Rahmani was assassinated in Kabul. This represented a serious blow to the ongoing transition talks between NATO forces and the Afghan government.
NATO members will discuss plans and timelines for withdrawal from Afghanistan at a summit in Chicago next week.