Mir Ajan, a defense ministry official, called the attack an assassination attempt aimed at “trying to destabilize the country and disrupt the minister’s plans,” the Associated Press reported.
The bomb exploded in front of Fahim’s convoy as he was traveling to meet with local commanders and tribal leaders to discuss issues including security and poppy eradication. No one in the convoy was hurt, but residents standing on the street nearby were killed and wounded in the explosion.
An Afghan government official told Reuters the bomb was detonated in a kiosk in the center of the eastern city of Jalalabad.
The attack came as Afghanistan began a program to pay farmers not to produce opium poppies, from which heroin is derived. The initiative is part of the Afghan interim government’s plan to eradicate poppy production altogether — a move unpopular with poppy farmers and drug bosses.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad said the government hadn’t ruled out the possibility some in the illegal drug trade may have been behind the attack. Samad told reporters remaining members of the Taliban militia and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network are also possible suspects.
Also Monday, farmers in the Nangarhar province 40 miles east of Jalalabad opened fire on provincial officials surveying their fields, killing one person and wounding four, a provincial government official told the AP.
On Sunday, according to residents, eight farmers were reportedly killed and 35 wounded during protests against the anti-poppy campaign. The protests took place in the Kajaki district in the southwestern province of Helmand, Afghanistan’s largest poppy producer.
Last week, Afghan authorities arrested some 160 people suspected of plotting attacks against Interim Afghan President Hamid Karzai and former king Mohammad Zaher Shah.
The situation has raised security concerns about the former king’s upcoming trip to Afghanistan next month, where he will preside over the opening session of the Loya Jirga, Afghanistan’s tribal council.