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14 dead, dozens injured in blast at election rally in Afghanistan

The election rally was for a woman standing as a candidate in the elections on October 20. Scores of people had gathered to listen to the candidate, but police said she was not at the rally at the time of the blast.

world Updated: Oct 13, 2018 19:38 IST
AP
AP
Kabul
Afghanistan,Afghanistan election,Taliban
File photo of Afghan policemen inspect the site of a blast in Jalalabad city on July 1.(Reuters/Representative image)

A motorcycle rigged with explosives detonated at an election rally in northeastern Afghanistan on Saturday killing at least 14 people, including civilians and security forces, officials said.

Khalil Aser, spokesman for the provincial police chief in Takhar province, said 32 others were wounded when the explosives-laden motorbike parked near the rally in Rustaq district blew up.

“There are a number of wounded people in critical condition,” he said.

The attack took place at about noon before Nazefa Yusoufi Beg, a female candidate running for a seat in parliament in the Oct. 20 elections, arrived at the rally, Aser said. It was not immediately clear if she was the target.

Jawad Hajri, spokesman for the provincial governor, said Rustaq is a remote district where insurgent attacks have not occurred in the past and the candidate’s supporters had gathered for the rally confident they would be safe.

Adeb Hamra, a local resident, said in a telephone interview that the district government hospital has only four doctors and was overwhelmed with dead and wounded, most of them in critical condition.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but Taliban insurgents are active in the province and have claimed pervious attacks there.

Meanwhile, in a separate attack Saturday that targeted the office of a candidate in western Herat province, at least two people including a security guard and a child were killed, said Gelani Farhad, spokesman for the provincial governor.

He said one other person was wounded after two gunmen riding a motorcycle opened fire at the campaign office of parliamentary candidate Sayed Azem Kabrzani in the Injil district.

“The candidate himself was not in the office when the attack happened and he is safe,” said Farhad. A police investigation was begun to find out more about the attack, he said.

These were not the first attacks targeting a political campaign this year.

On Tuesday, eight people including candidate Saleh Mohammad Achekzai, were killed when a suicide bomber struck Achekzai’s home In Helmand province. He was holding a meeting at the time of the attack in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital.

On Oct. 2, just days after official campaigning began, a suicide bomber struck an election rally in eastern Nangarhar province, killing at least 14 people and wounding around 40.

Last week, Taliban insurgents issued a statement condemning the elections and warning candidates and Afghan Security Forces that they would be targets if they participate. The Taliban called the polls a U.S.-manipulated event to further their hold on the country.

There are 2,565 candidates vying for seats in the 249-member chamber, including 417 women candidates.

In the run-up to campaigning, five candidates have been killed in separate attacks. Officials from the country’s Independent Election Commission said another two candidates have been abducted, with their fates unknown, and three others have been wounded in violence. Afghan security forces accidentally killed three bodyguards of an independent candidate during a raid on a house near his residence in the eastern Kunar province.

In a separate report from eastern Logar province Saturday, at least five civilians were killed when a bomb exploded during a wedding ceremony, said Shah Poor Ahmadzai, the provincial police chief’s spokesman.

Ahmadzai said seven others were wounded in the attack late Friday, which took place in Mohammad Agha district.

Mohammad Naser Ghairat, a provincial council member in Logar, said the bomb was planted near the house where the wedding was taking place and targeted the participants of the wedding.

Ahmadzai said initial reports show both the groom and bride were not hurt. An investigation was begun to find out more and the death toll could rise, he said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but Taliban insurgents are active in the province.

First Published: Oct 13, 2018 18:05 IST