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Deadly blast strikes election rally in northeast Afghanistan

Noorullah Shirzada, AFP | Afghan volunteers carry an injured man following an attack at a parliamentary election rally in the Kama district of the eastern province of Nangarhar, in Jalalabad on October 2, 2018

At least 12 people were killed and more than 30 injured in an explosion at an election rally for a woman standing as a candidate in Afghanistan’s parliamentary polls on Oct. 20, officials said on Saturday.

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Khalil Asir, a police spokesman in the northeast province of Takhar, said explosives were placed in a motorcycle near the rally, which was to have been addressed by the candidate, Nazifa Yousufi Bek.

“So far we received a report of 12 dead and 32 injured, the victims include security officials and civilians,” said Asir.

No militant group immediately claimed of responsibility for the attack.

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.

Candidates brave violence

Bek is one of 417 women contesting seats across the country, more than ever before, despite deadly suicide attacks on election rallies and offices apparently aimed at forcing voters to boycott the vote scheduled for Oct. 20.

Candidates, regardless of gender, are braving violence and opposition from social conservatives in a campaign seen as a test of the war-torn nation’s democratic institutions.

Five candidates, all men, have been killed in separate attacks so far. Another two have been abducted, and four others have been wounded by hardline Islamist militants, election officials said.

Takhar, a province bordering Tajikistan has long been a hotbed of the Taliban insurgency. The Taliban has directed Afghans to boycott the upcoming polls.

Meanwhile, Taliban leaders said they had met with the newly-appointed US special envoy for peace, Zalmay Khalizad, in Qatar on Friday to discuss ways to end the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

“Both sides spoke (about) an end to the occupation and peaceful solution to the Afghan issue ... Both sides agreed to continue meeting in the future,” Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s spokesman, said in a statement on Saturday.

US officials in Kabul were not immediately available to comment on Khalilzad’s visit.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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