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 central 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 abruptly ended talks with the Taliban 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 blasts, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the attack near Ghani’s rally was deliberately aimed at disrupting the September 28 elections.
“We already warned people not to attend election rallies, if they suffer any losses that is their own responsibility,” the statement said. An AFP image from the scene near Ghani’s rally, roughly an hour’s drive north of Kabul, showed the remains of a burnt motorcycle, with a body on top, covered by a blanket and next to a badly damaged police car. Women and children were among the casualties, Parwan hospital director Abdul Qasim Sangin told media.
The president, who was speaking to his supporters at the time of the blast, was unhurt but 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,” said Ghani in a statement. Sixty kilometres away in Kabul, a shopkeeper, Rahimullah, said he had been sitting inside his shop when the second blast came.
“The wave broke all the windows,” he told AFP.
“I rushed outside and saw several bodies just across the street. This is the second time in less than a month that a blast has broken our windows. I just fixed them a week ago.”
The UN’s mission in Afghanistan also slammed the Taliban, accusing them of showing “despicable disregard for civilian life & fundamental human right to participate in democratic process”. The elections will see Ghani face off against his own Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah, and more than a dozen other candidates, including former warlords, ex-spies, and onetime members of the country’s former communist regime.
Meanwhile Pakistan strongly condemned the “terrorist attack” near the election rally in Parwan province, saying it supports Afghan efforts for restoring peace and stability in the country.
“We offer our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families while praying for early recovery of those injured in the attack,” a statement issued by the Foreign Office said.
“Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Pakistan fully supports the Afghan efforts for restoring complete peace and stability in the country through strengthening of the democratic process in Afghanistan.”