Tal­iban at­tacks kill 48, close shave for Afghan prez as bomber tar­gets rally

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The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Global -

Kabul: Tal­iban sui­cide bombers killed 48 peo­ple in two sep­a­rate at­tacks in Afghanista­n on Tues­day, the dead­li­est tak­ing place near an elec­tion rally by Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani, though he was un­hurt. The at­tacks hap­pened 11 days be­fore Afghanista­n's pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, which Tal­iban com­man­ders have vowed to vi­o­lently dis­rupt, and fol­low col­lapsed peace talks be­tween the United States and the in­sur­gent group.

Ghani, who is seek­ing a sec­ond five-year term in vot­ing on Septem­ber 28, was due to ad­dress a rally in Charikar, the cap­i­tal of cen­tral Par­wan prov­ince, when a sui­cide bomber at­tacked the gath­er­ing. The blast killed 26 peo­ple and wounded 42, said Nas­rat Rahimi, spokesman for the in­te­rior min­istry. “When the peo­ple were en­ter­ing the po­lice camp, an old man rid­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle ar­rived on the high­way and det­o­nated his ex­plo­sives, caus­ing ca­su­al­ties,” said Par­wan prov­ince’s po­lice chief Mo­ham­mad Mah­fooz Wal­izada.

In the wake of the at­tack, bod­ies lit­tered the dusty ground as smoke rose from the site of the ex­plo­sion, a gi­ant blue bill­board bear­ing the face of Ghani’s run­ning mate Am­rul­lah Saleh loom­ing over the scene. With sirens wail­ing, res­cuers rushed to lift the wounded into the backs of pick-up trucks for evac­u­a­tion. “Women and chil­dren are among them and most of the vic­tims seem to be the civil­ians,” said Ab­dul Qasim San­gin, head of Par­wan’s provin­cial hospi­tal.

The pres­i­dent was nearby but un­harmed, and later took to Twit­ter to con­demn bomb­ing at the rally.

“Tal­iban tried to break this unity by tar­get­ing in­no­cent civil­ians,” he wrote. “They shame­lessly ac­cepted re­spon­si­bil­ity at a time when they’re cloak­ing acts of ter­ror as ef­forts for peace. In a sep­a­rate in­ci­dent, a man on foot blew him­self up in the cen­tre of Kabul, send­ing am­bu­lances and Afghan forces rush­ing to the blast site. “I was wait­ing at the en­trance of the re­cruit­ment cen­tre,” said Mustafa Ghi­asi, ly­ing on a hospi­tal bed

the after be­ing wounded in the ex­plo­sion. “I was be­hind two men in line when sud­denly the blast struck.”

Twenty-two peo­ple were killed, and 38 were wounded, said Rahimi, the in­te­rior min­istry spokesman. Most of the dead were civil­ians, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren, though six were se­cu­rity force mem­bers.

The Tal­iban said it car­ried out the two at­tacks, and a state­ment is­sued by a spokesman for the in­sur­gents said they were aimed at se­cu­rity forces. “Peo­ple were given warn­ing,” the state­ment said. “Do not take part in the pup­pet ad­min­is­tra­tion’s elec­tion ral­lies, be­cause all such gath­er­ings are our mil­i­tary tar­get,” said the state­ment. “If, de­spite the warn­ing, some­one get hurt, they them­selves are to blame.”

Ad­dress­ing the Kabul at­tack, Afghanista­n’s pres­i­dent lashed out at the Tal­iban as the “coward en­emy” for tar­get­ing civil­ians. “I of­fer my heart­felt con­do­lences to vic­tims of to­day’s tragedies in Kabul and Par­wan and pray for speedy re­cov­ery of those who were wounded,” Ghani wrote on his of­fi­cial Twit­ter ac­count. “We stand united in this hour of grief.”

Pak­istan, which de­nies ac­cu­sa­tions that it shel­ters the Tal­iban, also con­demned the at­tack. “We of­fer our heart­felt con­do­lences to the be­reaved fam­i­lies,” it said in a state­ment. Se­cu­rity at ral­lies across the coun­try has been tight fol­low­ing threats by the Tal­iban to at­tack meet­ings and polling sta­tions. The group has vowed to in­ten­sify clashes with Afghan and for­eign forces to dis­suade peo­ple from vot­ing in the up­com­ing elec­tions.

AP

Afghan se­cu­rity forces guard the site of a sui­cide at­tack near the US Em­bassy in Kabul on Tues­day

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