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Suicide bomber targets Afghanistan election candidate in Helmand province

A suicide bomber targeting an Afghan election candidate on Tuesday killed at least eight people, officials said, days ahead of a parliamentary vote that militants have vowed to disrupt.

Another 10 people were wounded when the attacker blew himself up inside Saleh Mohammad Achakzai’s campaign office in the southern city of Lashkargah, Helmand provincial governor spokesperson Omar Zhwak told AFP.

Achakzai was among those killed, police said.

Provincial police spokesperson Salam Afghan confirmed the attack. “We are investigating,” he said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but Helmand is a Taliban stronghold.

It is not clear how many people were inside the room at the time of the blast, which comes a day after the Taliban warned candidates to pull out of the “bogus” election scheduled for October 20.

Describing the polls as a “malicious American conspiracy” and urging voters to boycott them, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said the militants would disrupt the ballot.

It was the second suicide attack to target a parliamentary candidate since campaigning officially kicked off on September 28.

An attack on a rally in the eastern province of Nangarhar on October 2 killed 13 people and wounded more than 40.

More than 2,500 candidates will contest the poll, which is seen as a test run for next year’s presidential vote.

At least five have been murdered in targeted killings so far, according to the Independent Election Commission.

Preparations for the ballot, which is more than three years late, have been in turmoil for months and there has been widespread speculation about whether the vote would go ahead.

Bureaucratic inefficiency, allegations of industrial-scale fraud and an eleventh-hour pledge for biometric verification of voters threaten to derail the process and any hope of a credible result.

Some 54,000 members of Afghanistan’s beleaguered security forces will be responsible for protecting more than 5,000 polling centres on election day.

More than 2,000 polling centers that were supposed to open will be closed for security reasons.

On Tuesday, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said the number of Afghans killed or wounded in suicide attacks soared 46 percent in the first nine months of 2018.

With reporting from AFP

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