KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber blew himself up Friday outside a mosque where a remembrance ceremony was being held for a slain Afghan police commander. The blast killed four police officers, authorities said.
The attack was the latest in a spate of violence as the Taliban wages its spring offensive. The bloodshed comes as President Barack Obama is expected to decide within days how many U.S. troops to pull out in coming months— and possibly set a timetable for much larger withdrawals in 2012.
Security forces confronted the bomber, who was dressed in traditional robes, before he entered the mosque in the northern city of Kunduz, said provincial police chief Samiullah Qatra, who attended the ceremony. A scuffle broke out and the bomber detonated his explosives, the force of the blast blowing out windows of the mosque, Qatra said.
At least 14 people were wounded, state health director Zafar Noori said.
A NATO service member also died Friday in a helicopter crash in eastern Afghanistan, raising the death toll for international forces to 20 so far this month.
The alliance said no insurgent activity was reported in the area where the helicopter crashed. The NATO statement gave no other details about the crash or the casualty.
The U.S. has about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has briefed the ministers on progress in the war at a closed-door meeting this week and will deliver options for troop reductions to Obama soon.
Video shot by AP Television News showed what appeared to be the bomber’s head and legs indicating he detonated his explosives outside the mosque near a mud wall. Green plastic chairs sat overturned, and blood pooled on the ground.
Friday’s ceremony was in honor of Gen. Daud Daud, a well known regional police commander in northern Afghanistan who was killed May 28 in a bombing at the governor’s office in northeastern Takhar province where top police and NATO officials were meeting. German Gen. Markus Kneip, NATO’s commander for northern Afghanistan, was among those wounded in the attack.
Daud was a former deputy interior minister and ex-bodyguard of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the charismatic Tajik leader who commanded the Northern Alliance and died in an al-Qaida suicide bombing two days before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that prompted the U.S. invasion.
Kunduz province has seen an increase in bombings and assassinations in recent months as international forces have staged an offensive against the Taliban.
In March, the insurgency struck back with a suicide bombing at an army recruitment center, killing 35 volunteers, while a suicide bomber in February killed at least 30 people at a government office where Afghans were waiting in line for identification cards.
In October, a bomb killed Kunduz Gov. Mohammad Omar and 19 others in a crowded mosque in neighboring Takhar province. Omar was killed just days after he warned of escalating threats from Taliban and foreign fighters in the north.
The north is home to hide-outs for the Taliban, al-Qaida and fighters from other militant factions, including the Haqqani network, Hizb-i-Islami and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. NATO has sent more troops to the north and has been pushing harder into militant-held areas.