Tue, 13 Nov 2018
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Islamabad

As Afghanistan elections near, terror strikes get deadlier

By Sheetal Sukhija, Pakistan News
14 Oct 2018, 05:13 GMT+10

KABUL, Afghanistan - As the Afghanistan parliamentary polls near, the number of terrorist attacks targeting the campaigning process is increasing. 

With merely days to go before the elections are held in the country on October 20, another bombing struck an election rally in the country on Saturday. 

Saturday's attack struck an election rally being held by a female candidate in Takhar province and officials said that a motorcycle bomb went off merely minutes before the candidate was set to address scores of people gathered at the campaign rally.

A Police spokesman Khalil Aser told the local media, "There are a number of wounded people in critical condition."

Later in the day, Jawad Hejri, spokesman for the Takhar governor said in a statement that "22 people were killed in the attack and 36 others were injured in Rustaq district" on Saturday.

Further, officials confirmed local media reports that revealed that the explosives had been placed on a motorcycle that had been placed near the area where the rally was being held.

The rally drew several following of the candidate Nazifa Yousufi Bek, who was set to address the gathering when the explosion occurred.

Local police officials confirmed that the candidate escaped injury in the attack.

According to a local police official quoted in reports, the victims included security officials and civilians.

Condemning the attack, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement that "the enemies of Afghans cannot weaken the will of the nation."

So far, no group has immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing on Saturday, however, Taliban has repeatedly decried the upcoming parliamentary vote.

The insurgent group has vowed to target the election, which it has called a "malicious American conspiracy" designed to tighten the U.S. grip on the country.

Further, in a statement released earlier this week, Taliban pledged to attack the ballot and politicians involved in it.

The insurgent group has urged Afghans to abandon the polls.

Security Forces further doubted the Taliban's role in Saturday's attack since the attack struck Takhar province, which borders Tajikistan - an area that has long been a hotbed of the Taliban insurgency. 

The northeast province of Takhar too has witnessed heightened activity by Islamist militants, however, Saturday's attack was the first major strike in the remote district of Rustaq in the province.   

Following the attack on Saturday, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass condemned the violence and called on the Taliban to do the same.

Bass tweeted, "If the group (the Taliban) is serious about the peace process it will do the same and punish those responsible."

Overall, Saturday's attack became the third attack against the election campaign process this month.

According to Afghanistan's electoral commission, so far, seven male candidates have been killed in separate attacks across Afghanistan in the run-up to the elections. 

Two others have been abducted and four others have suffered injuries by hardline Islamist militants 

Yet, candidates continue to brave violence and opposition from social conservatives and followers continue to pour out in election rallies in large numbers. 

Officials have pointed out that hundreds of civilians have been killed or wounded. 

The female candidate, Nazifa Yousufi Bek, whose rally was targeted on Saturday, is one of the 417 women, alongside 2,148 male candidates, contesting for seats in the 249-member chamber in the country.

The upcoming election in Afghanistan is witnessing the highest ever number of female candidates contesting in the polls in the country.

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