Taliban kill at least 48 in bloody day ahead of Afghan polls

Kabul, Sept 18 (AFP/APP):Taliban suicide bombers killed at least 48 people and wounded dozens more in two blasts Tuesday — one at a campaign rally for the president and the other in Kabul — with the insurgents warning of more violence ahead of elections.

The first attack saw a motorcyclist detonate a suicide bomb at a checkpoint leading to a rally where President Ashraf Ghani was addressing supporters in Parwan province, just north of the capital, killing 26 and wounding 42.

Just over an hour later, another blast also claimed by the Taliban rocked central Kabul near the US embassy. Authorities initially did not give casualty figures, but later said 22 people had been killed and a further 38 wounded.

The explosions came after US President Donald Trump, objecting to a previous deadly Taliban blast, abruptly ended talks with the Islamist extremists earlier this month over a deal that would have allowed the US to begin withdrawing troops from its longest war.

In a statement sent to media claiming responsibility for both of Tuesday’s blasts, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the attack near Ghani’s rally was deliberately aimed at disrupting the September 28 ballot.

“We already warned people not to attend election rallies. If they suffer any losses that is their own responsibility,” the statement said.

At the scene near Ghani’s rally, roughly an hour’s drive north of Kabul, the remains of a burnt motorcycle, with a body on top, were covered by a blanket, next to a badly damaged police car.

Women and children were among the casualties, Parwan hospital director Abdul Qasim Sangin told AFP.
The president was unhurt. He later condemned the attack, saying the incident proved the Taliban had no real interest in reconciliation.

“As the Taliban continue their crimes, they once again prove that they are not interested in peace and stability in Afghanistan,” Ghani said in a statement.

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