KABUL - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has asked the country's religious elders to use their influence to sway Islamist insurgents not to use turbans to hide suicide bombs in a bid to halt the deadly new tactic before it becomes more widespread.
Two separate turban bombings last month killed the mayor of the southern city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, and a senior cleric in the city, raising questions about how to guard against this new ploy without causing religious offence.
Suicide bombers in Afghanistan and Pakistan have also used women's burqas to disguise themselves.
Karzai recently met with members of ulema councils -- influential bodies of clerics that regulate religious issues -- from around the country to discuss the issue, said Siyamak Herawi, a spokesman for Karzai.
"From our point of view, by misusing Islamic values (the insurgents) want to draw a bad picture of Islam for the people of the world," Herawi said.
He said Karzai asked the clerics to launch a campaign to convince insurgents not to use turbans and other religious attire to carry out suicide bombings, not to target mosques and to make them aware that suicide was un-Islamic.
Guards at some government ministries in Kabul are now asking men to remove their turbans for security checks.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said the Islamist group had never hidden a bomb in a turban.
The group did not claim responsibility for the July 14 killing of the senior Kandahar cleric and four others at a funeral service for the slain brother of president Karzai .
While it did claim the killing of Kandahar mayor Ghulam Haidar two weeks later, Mujahid said the bomb had not been hidden in a turban.
"If using a turban is an Islamic, respectful and cultural issue, then why did Karzai put it on the head of many foreign generals in the past years?" Mujahid shot back.
Religion is at the core of the group's ideology and they have in the past denied any role in attacks on religious sites, even when they appear to further their military strategy.
But targeting funerals and mosques is a tactic that has been used before in other parts of the country, and insurgent networks are the only groups fighting in Afghanistan that use suicide bombers.