“Two people, including Mohammad Dawood Muzammil, the governor of Balkh, have been killed in an explosion this morning,” police spokesman Asif Waziri said on Thursday.
Waziri stated the blast happened on the second floor of his office in the provincial capital of Mazar-i-Sharif.
“It was a suicide attack. We don’t have information as to how the suicide bomber reached the office of the governor,” he continued, adding that two people were also wounded.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but a regional affiliate of the ISIL (also known as ISIS or Daesh) group is a key rival of the ruling Taliban.
The killing of Muzammil, known for his resistance to the ISIL in the area, came a day after he met top government officials visiting from capital Kabul.
The killing makes Muzammil one of the highest-ranking figures slain since the Taliban stormed back to power in 2021.
Violence across Afghanistan dramatically dropped since the Taliban seized control, but the security situation has again deteriorated with ISIL claiming several deadly attacks.
Muzammil was “martyred in an explosion by the enemies of Islam”, tweeted Taliban government’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
Muzammil was initially appointed governor of the eastern province of Nangarhar, where he led the fight against ISIL, before being moved to Balkh last year.
On Wednesday, he met two deputy prime ministers and other senior officials visiting Balkh to review a major irrigation project in northern Afghanistan, according to a government statement.
The ISIL has emerged as the biggest security challenge to the Taliban government since last year, carrying out attacks against Afghan civilians as well as foreigners and foreign interests.
Several attacks have rocked Balkh, including in Mazar-i-Sharif last year, some claimed by the armed group.
In January, a suicide bomber killed at least 10 people when he blew himself up near the foreign ministry in Kabul, in an attack claimed by the group.
At least five Chinese nationals were wounded in December when gunmen stormed a hotel popular with businesspeople in Kabul. ISIL claimed responsibility for the raid.
Another attack on Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul in December that Islamabad denounced as an “assassination attempt” against its ambassador was also claimed by the group.
Two Russian embassy staff members were killed in a suicide bombing outside their mission in September in yet another attack claimed by ISIL.