Afghan suicide bombing at market leaves many dead

An Afghan police officer stands at the site of a suicide blast in Maymana, Faryab, northern Afghanistan on 18 March 2014 The attacker is said to have been riding a three-wheel motorcycle when he detonated the explosives

A suicide bomb attack in northern Afghanistan has killed at least 15 people including women and children, officials have told the BBC.

Another 27 were wounded in the attack in Maymana, the capital of Faryab province, provincial governor Mohammadullah Batash said.

The bomber is believed to have detonated his explosives near the entrance to a busy market.

The attack comes as Afghans prepare to hold presidential elections on 5 April.

No group has so far said it carried out the bombing.

However, Taliban insurgents and the al-Qaeda affiliated group the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are active in the volatile region.

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'Huge bang'

Mr Batash said the attacker had been riding a three-wheel motorcycle when he detonated his explosives.

"It was a local market day. Hundreds of local farmers and villagers bring their produce. All of those killed and injured are civilians," he said.

Witness Sayed Agha, 43, told the BBC: "I was busy buying bread when I heard a huge bang. I saw dead bodies and blood all around me."

Correspondents say security is likely to be severely tested during the election, where candidates include warlords and former guerrilla leaders from the civil war in the 1990s.

The Taliban have threatened to target anyone who takes part in the polls.

In recent days, the country's election commission has closed 396 polling centres in 15 provinces citing security concerns, says the BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul.

The majority were closed in Faryab province, our correspondent adds.

The last remaining contingent of Nato-led forces is due to leave the country by the end of the year, having handed over security to Afghan forces.

The United Nations says 2,959 civilians were killed and 5,656 wounded in Afghanistan last year, a 14% rise from the previous year.

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