Governor Among 15 Killed in Afghan Mosque Bombing

A massive blast at a mosque in northern Afghanistan killed 15 people including the provincial governor in northern Afghanistan on Friday, officials said.

More than 20 people were wounded in the explosion during Friday prayers at the Shirkat mosque in Takhar province, said Gen. Shah Jahan Noori, provincial police chief.

The governor of neighboring Kunduz province, Mohammad Omar, was killed in the blast, Noori said.

Takhar Gov. Abdul Jabar Taqwa said Omar was likely the target. "We believe a bomb was set up in the mosque to kill the governor," he told The Associated Press.

Northern Takhar has been the scene of escalating violence amid intensified military operations by NATO and Afghan forces in recent days.

Sixteen militants were killed in air raids and ground fighting overnight Wednesday in the Darqad, Yangi Qala and Khwaja Bahawuddin districts of Takhar, said Noori. More than a dozen insurgents were wounded.

Noori said his convoy was ambushed early Thursday and four attackers were killed in a gunbattle that lasted several hours. No joint force casualties occurred, he said.

Taliban commander Maulawi Jawadullah -- accused of organizing deadly ambushes, roadside bombings, and abductions of Afghan police and soldiers in northern Afghanistan -- was killed in an airstrike Wednesday in Takhar's Yangi Qala district, NATO said.

Jawadullah was linked to the recent deaths of 10 Afghan National Police officers during an attack on a police station in Kunduz province, an alliance statement said. Seven other Taliban also died in the assault, including three who opened fire from a forest when coalition forces moved in following the airstrike.