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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014

World

Afghan election front-runner Abdullah escapes blast
AFP
Kabul, June 06, 2014
First Published: 14:53 IST(6/6/2014)
Last Updated: 15:01 IST(6/6/2014)

Afghan presidential front-runner Abdullah Abdullah said he had escaped an assassination attempt on Friday when an explosion hit his campaign motorcade in Kabul just days ahead of a hotly contested run-off election.
 
"A few minutes ago, when we left a campaign rally our convoy was hit by a mine," Abdullah told another election rally in quotes broadcast on Afghan television. He added that some of his guards were mildly wounded, while he was unhurt.

The blast site was cordoned off by security officials as ambulances rushed to the scene and took the wounded to hospital, making their way through a sandstorm that hit the capital, television footage showed.

The assassination attempt on Abdullah came ahead of the second-round presidential election on June 14, which Taliban insurgents have threatened to disrupt.

No one has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.

Afghanistan is in the middle of elections to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who has ruled since the fall of the 1996-2001 Taliban regime.

Abdullah fell short of the 50 percent threshold needed for an outright victory in the April first round and will face former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani in the run-off.

"We condemn the attack on respected presidential candidate Dr. Abdullah Abdullah," Ghani said on Twitter.

"This is the act of the enemies of Afghanistan to disrupt the democratic process in the country."

President Barack Obama recently outlined the US strategy to end America's longest war, saying that the 32,000-strong US deployment in Afghanistan would be scaled back to around 9,800 by the start of 2015.

Those forces would be halved by the end of 2015 before eventually being reduced to a normal embassy presence with a security assistance component by the end of 2016.

But the drawdown relies on Afghanistan signing a long-delayed Bilateral Security Agreement laying out the terms of the US military presence in the country after this year.

The outgoing Karzai refuses to sign the pact, but both Afghan presidential candidates have vowed to sign it if elected.


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