By Rafiq Sherzad
JALALABAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed at least 25 people and wounded dozens at a funeral in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, officials said, the latest large-scale attack on civilians.
A local district chief and dozens of his relatives were at the ceremony in the Dur Baba district of Nangarhar province, near the Pakistan border, when a man detonated a vest he was wearing packed with explosives, the officials said.
They said Dur Baba district chief Haji Hamesha Gul, who was wounded in the attack, was probably the main target.
"My brother saw the bomber and grabbed him just as he pushed the button, killing him and many others," Gul told Reuters from a hospital bed in Jalalabad, Nangarhar's capital.
Khan Mohammad, also in hospital in Jalalabad after being wounded in the attack, said: "I was at the graveyard just putting the dead body inside the tomb when I heard a loud explosion. Many people were screaming and crying for help."
The provincial governor's spokesman, Ahmadzia Abdulzai, said the attack was aimed at Gul and his supporters because they had recently opposed insurgents in the area. The funeral was for one of Gul's relatives.
"We have at least 25 innocent people martyred and around 65 others wounded," Abdulzai said. NATO also put the death toll at 25, but said more than 50 were people wounded.
The Interior Ministry blamed Taliban insurgents for the bombing.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack and offered his condolences to the victims' families, he said in a statement.
Despite the presence of hundreds of thousands of Afghan and foreign troops fighting the Taliban-led insurgency, violence is at its worst since the Islamists were toppled by Afghan and U.S. forces in late 2001, five years after they took power.
Tuesday's attack was carried out days after 15 young men and two young women were beheaded in the southern Helmand province, punishment meted out by Taliban fighters for a mixed-sex party with music and dancing.
On Saturday, a twin suicide bomb attack targeting a NATO base in the eastern province of Wardak killed 12 people, eight civilians and four policemen.
Suicide attacks and roadside bombs are the biggest killers of Afghan civilians as well as Afghan and foreign soldiers.
A half-yearly report by the United Nations said that 1,145 civilians had been killed in Afghanistan between January 1 and June 30 this year, and 1,954 wounded. It said Taliban militants were responsible for 80 percent of civilian casualties.
(Additional Reporting by Mirwais Harooni in Kabul Writing by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Pravin Char)
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