Afghan police detain two over big bomb attack

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MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan, Nov 9 (Reuters) Afghan police have detained two men on suspicion of involvement in a suicide bomb attack this week that killed more than 50 people in the north of the country, the provincial governor said today.

Tuesday's blast, in the relatively peaceful north, shook public confidence in the ability of the government and the 50,000 foreign troops in the country to provide security more than six years after the Taliban were ousted from power.

Taliban insurgents have carried out more than 130 suicide attacks in Afghanistan this year, but denied responsibility for the attack in the northern town of Baghlan that killed six opposition parliamentarians and a large number of schoolchildren.

The insurgent denial has sparked widespread speculation and conspiracy theories over who might be responsible amid a general atmosphere of fear and suspicion.

Police arrested two men in Baghlan -- one a mosque prayer leader, the other a resident of the industrial part of the town where the blast took place -- provincial governor Mohammad Alam Ishaaqzai told Reuters.

''The initial investigation shows these men may have had a hand in this attack,'' he said, but declined to say whether the men were affiliated to any insurgent or political group.

A high-ranking Interior Ministry team from the capital Kabul were questioning the pair, he said.

Northern Afghanistan has been relatively peaceful and prosperous compared with the south and east, where Taliban suicide attacks are common and insurgents are locked in daily battles with Afghan and foreign forces.

Reuters RJ GC1410

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