A bomb exploded inside a mosque in eastern Afghanistan, seriously wounding a candidate in upcoming parliamentary elections and 16 other people.
The candidate, Mawlvi Saydullah, was making a speech inside the mosque on Friday in Mando Zayi district when the blast went off, shattering windows. His bodyguard and at least 15 other civilians were also hurt, said Mubariz Zadran, spokesman for the provincial governor.
"He was the target," Zadran said, referring to Saydullah. Afghanistan will hold national parliamentary elections in September, despite fears a surge in Taliban attacks and fighting with international forces could undermine security for the vote. Meanwhile, military and government officials said Friday several Taliban figures, including a former spokesman for the insurgents, were captured in raids by coalition and Afghan forces across the country.
Abdul Hay Motmaen, a spokesman for the Taliban when they ruled Afghanistan, was among those arrested in operations on Thursday night in two villages in Andar district of the eastern province of Ghazni, district chief Shir Khan Yosoufzai said.
International forces in Afghanistan say they have captured more than 100 senior Taliban figures since April in near-nightly raids targeting the top leaders. However, the successes have not managed to reduce insurgent attacks.
NATO is hoping that seizing weapons and key insurgent leaders will weaken the Taliban's operational capacity, while increased patrols by Afghan and coalition troops will bring greater security to areas of the south that have been dominated by the insurgency. However, the strategy has yet to succeed in reducing violent attacks, which some estimate are at the highest level since early in the nearly nine-year-old war. The Taliban have met the coalition's stepped-up raids and patrols with a wave of bombings and assassinations.