KUNDUZ, Afghanistan: A suicide bomber detonated an explosive-packed motorcycle in northern Afghanistan Thursday, killing six civilians and wounding more than 20 in a crowded market as shoppers bought supplies for the upcoming festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, officials said.
The attack in Takhar province came as Afghanistan is conducting an audit of its presidential vote aimed at ending an impasse that has threatened to plunge the country into a crisis as foreign troops prepare to withdraw by the end of the year.
"Today morning a suicide bomber detonated his explosive packed motorcycle in Khwaja Ghar district central of Takhar province," Sunatullah Taimor, the provincial governor's spokesman told AFP.
"All of the wounded were civilians, six were killed and 26 others were wounded," he said.
Taimor added that the bomb had been intended for a police pick-up truck but missed its target.
Khali Aseer, provincial police spokesman confirmed the death toll to AFP and said: "The victims were shopping for the holy month of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr festival.
"Unfortunately, they were martyred in a suicide attack by the enemies of Afghanistan," a phrase taken to mean the Taliban, who have waged an insurgency against the government since being ousted from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.
The Afghan interior ministry in a statement condemned the attack and put the number of wounded at 28.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the Taliban routinely carry out similar attacks and have vowed to disrupt the election of the successor to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
On Tuesday, a Taliban suicide attacker riding a motorbike killed five foreign guards in a foreign compound near the outer perimeter of Kabul airport.
Afghanistan is on edge as the election dispute between poll rivals Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah threatens to trigger instability and revive ethnic tensions that ravaged the country during the 1992-1996 civil war.
NATO combat troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by December, and reports suggest unrest is already worsening nationwide.
According to recent UN figures, civilian casualties soared by 24 percent in the first half of 2014, while the International Crisis Group has said the "overall trend is one of escalating violence and insurgent attacks".