Thu, Sep 19, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Taliban suicide bombers kill 48 ahead of elections

AFP, KABUL

Taliban suicide bombers on Tuesday killed at least 48 people and wounded dozens more in two blasts — 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 Afghan 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 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 group earlier this month over a deal that would have allowed the US to begin withdrawing troops.

In a statement sent to media claiming responsibility for both of the blasts, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the attack near Ghani’s rally was deliberately aimed at disrupting the Sept. 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, the remains of a burned motorcycle, with a body on top, were covered by a blanket, next to a badly damaged police vehicle.

Women and children were among the casualties, hospital director Abdul Qasim Sangin said.

The president was unhurt.

He later condemned the attack, saying it 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.

In Kabul, Rahimullah said he had been sitting inside his shop when the second blast came.

“The wave broke all the windows,” he said. “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.”

These and other attacks “demonstrate blatant disregard for the people and institutions of Afghanistan,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “For Afghans to truly reconcile, the Taliban must begin to demonstrate a genuine commitment to peace, rather than continue the violence and destruction that causes such inordinate harm to the Afghan people and the future of their country.”

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