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Afghan official: 13 dead in bomb attacks on candidate rally

KABUL, Afghanistan – An explosives-fueled motorcycle detonated at a rally in northeastern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing at least 14 people, including civilians and security forces.

Khalil Aser, spokesman for the Takhar Province Police Commissioner, said 32 more were injured when the explosives-laden motorcycle parked near the Rustaq rally exploded.

"There are a number of injured people in critical condition," he said.

The attack took place around noon before Nazefa Yusoufi Beg, a candidate for a seat in parliament in the October 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 was a remote district where there had been no insurgent attacks in the past and that the supporters of the candidate had gathered for the rally, confident that they would be safe.

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

Nobody has taken responsibility for the attack immediately, but Taliban insurgents are active in the province, consistently claiming attacks.

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

He said another person was injured after two armed men on a motorcycle opened the election office of parliamentary candidate Sayed Azem Kabrzani in Injil district.

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

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

On Tuesday, eight people, including Saleh Mohammad Achekzai, were killed when a suicide bomber attacked Achechsai in Helmand province. At the time of the attack in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, he held a meeting.

On October 2, a few days after the official campaign began, a suicide bomber staged an election rally in the eastern province of Nangarhar. At least 14 people were killed and around 40 injured.

Last week, Taliban insurgents issued a statement denouncing electoral and warning candidates and the Afghan security forces that they would be targeted if they participated. The Taliban called the polls US-manipulated events to extend their influence on the country.

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

In the run-up to the campaign, five candidates were killed in separate attacks. Officials from the country's Independent Electoral Commission said two other candidates were kidnapped, whose fates are unknown, and three others were violated. The Afghan security forces accidentally killed three bodyguards of an independent candidate in a raid on a house near his residence in the eastern province of Kunar.

In a separate report from the East Logar Province on Saturday, at least five civilians were killed when a bomb exploded during a wedding ceremony, Shah Poor Ahmadzai, police chief spokesman, said.

Ahmadzai said seven others were injured in the late Friday attack in the Mohammad Agha district.

Mohammad Naser Ghairat, a member of the Provincial Council in Logar, said the bomb had been planted near the house where the wedding took place and had targeted the participants in the wedding.

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

No one has immediately taken responsibility for the attack, but Taliban insurgents are active in the province.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.



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