Explosion kills 14 women in Afghan graveyard

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An explosion killed at least 14 women in a graveyard in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday as the country celebrated the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan, officials said.

Many Muslims visit the graves of deceased relatives during Eid as part of traditional celebrations after the holy month of fasting.

Police were unable to confirm the cause of the explosion in the Ghani Khel district of the province of Nangarhar.

"An explosion happened in a graveyard," Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal, police spokesman for Nangarhar, told AFP.

"Ten women were killed in the blast, two other women and a child were also wounded."

The gathering was an all-female event to commemorate the late wife of a pro-government tribal leader.

Nangarhar, which straddles a key route from Pakistan's tribal belt -- a hub for Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants -- to Kabul, has seen a series of attacks and battles in recent weeks.

On Saturday, suicide bombers targeted the Indian consulate in the provincial capital Jalalabad, detonating a car bomb and killing nine civilians, including seven children in a nearby mosque.

The Taliban, who were ousted from power in a 2001 U.S.-led invasion, denied any responsibility for the consulate attack.

More than 20 Afghan policemen and dozens of insurgents were also killed in Nangarhar a week ago when hundreds of fighters ambushed a security convoy returning from an operation to rescue a politician being threatened by the Taliban.

A bomb blast in Jalalabad on Tuesday killed one civilian.

Earlier on Thursday, President Hamid Karzai delivered an Eid address that again urged the Taliban to halt 12 years of war as the country seeks stability before next year's elections and the withdrawal of NATO-led troops.

In a thinly-veiled reference to neighbouring Pakistan, Karzai appealed to the Taliban to resist being controlled by foreigners and said the militants should support their own country.

"You are working for others, (foreign) guns are put on your shoulders, and innocent Afghan people are being killed by it, homes are destroyed," he said.

"Give up on it, be Afghan."

Karzai said the rebels would be welcome to open a political office in Kabul, after their new office in Qatar triggered a collapse in efforts to start peace talks.

"If you'd opened your office in Kabul, like other (political) parities in Afghanistan, you would have been respected," he said.

"The gun that is given to you by strangers -- leave that gun and take up shovels and work at your home. This is your home and you will never be disgraced, in other lands you are strangers and will never get respect."