12 dead in Afghan election rally bomb at­tack

The Star Malaysia - - World -

KUNDUZ (Afghanistan): A mo­tor­cy­cle car­ry­ing ex­plo­sives blew up among sup­port­ers of an Afghan election can­di­date killing at least 12 peo­ple, of­fi­cials said, in the lat­est at­tack on a po­lit­i­cal rally.

Vi­o­lence re­lated to the par­lia­men­tary vote has killed or wounded hun­dreds of peo­ple in re­cent months and more mil­i­tant at­tacks are ex­pected ahead of Afghanistan’s Oct 20 poll.

An­other 32 peo­ple were wounded in the ex­plo­sion in the north­east­ern prov­ince of Takhar where par­lia­men­tary can­di­date Naz­ifa Youse­fibek had been cam­paign­ing, said pro­vin­cial gov­er­nor spokesman Mo­ham­mad Jawad He­jri.

Am­bu­lances have been sent to the re­mote dis­trict of Rus­taq, but of­fi­cials also are seek­ing to air­lift the wounded to hos­pi­tals, He­jri added.

Pro­vin­cial po­lice spokesman Khalil As­sir put the death toll slightly higher at 13. Youse­fibek was not hurt in the blast.

“The bomb had been placed on a mo­tor­cy­cle and det­o­nated among the sup­port­ers of a fe­male can­di­date in Rus­taq dis­trict,” said As­sir.

Khan Jan, who saw the ex­plo­sion, said there had been a big blast and “a lot of peo­ple” had been killed.

More than 2,500 can­di­dates are con­test­ing the long­de­layed leg­isla­tive elec­tions. At least nine can­di­dates have died so far, most of them in tar­geted killings, ac­cord­ing to the In­de­pen­dent Election Com­mis­sion.

A can­di­date was among eight peo­ple killed in a sui­cide at­tack in the south­ern prov­ince of Hel­mand – a Tal­iban strong­hold – on Oct 9. No group has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity.

That in­ci­dent came a day af­ter the Tal­iban warned can­di­dates to pull out of the “bo­gus” election, de­scrib­ing it as a “ma­li­cious Amer­i­can con­spir­acy”. The group vowed to at­tack the bal­lot and those in­volved in it.

An at­tack on a rally in the east­ern prov­ince of Nan­garhar on Oc­to­ber 2 killed 13 peo­ple and wounded more than 40. The Is­lamic State group claimed the at­tack, which the can­di­date sur­vived.

Vi­o­lence had been ex­pected to es­ca­late ahead of the poll. Prepa­ ra­tions for the bal­lot, which is a test run for next year’s pres­i­den­tial vote, have been in tur­moil for months and there has been de­bate about whether the vote should go ahead.

Bureau­cratic in­ef­fi­ciency, al­le­ga­tions of in­dus­trial­scale fraud and an eleventh­hour pledge for bio­met­ric ver­i­fi­ca­tion of vot­ers threaten to de­rail the process, which is three years late.

Some 54,000 mem­bers of Afghanistan’s be­lea­guered se­cu­rity forces will be re­spon­si­ble for pro­tect­ing more than 5,000 polling cen­tres on election day.

But there are con­cerns over how they will man­age as the Tal­iban and the Is­lamic State group step up at­tacks across the coun­try.

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