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Suicide bomb attack on election rally for Afghan female candidate kills at least 14

Dozens were wounded in blast that targeted Nazifa Yousefibek's campaign in Takhar province

A motorcycle carrying explosives blew up among supporters of a female Afghan election candidate on Saturday, October 13, killing at least 14 people, officials said, in the latest attack on a political rally.

More than 30 people were wounded in the explosion in the northeastern province of Takhar where parliamentary candidate Nazifa Yousefibek had been campaigning, provincial governor spokesman Mohammad Jawad Hejri told AFP.

Ambulances have been sent to the remote district of Rustaq, but officials also are seeking to airlift the wounded to hospitals, Hejri added.

“The bomb had been placed on a motorcycle and detonated among the supporters of a female candidate in Rustaq district,” provincial police spokesperson Khalil Assir told AFP. Assir put the death toll at 13.

Yousefibek was not hurt in the blast.

Interior ministry deputy spokesman Nasrat Rahimi later said 14 were killed, most of them civilians.

“The explosives were placed in a motorcycle and detonated behind a tent where Nazifa Yousefibek was campaigning,” Rahimi said.

Khan Jan, who told AFP he saw the explosion, said there had been a powerful blast and “a lot of people” had been killed.

Update October 14 Takhar’s governor’s spokesperson Mohammad Jawad Hejri told AFP death toll from the attack had risen to 22, with 36 wounded.

Provincial health director Hafizullah Safi put the death toll slightly higher at 23.

Violence related to the parliamentary vote has killed or wounded hundreds of people in recent months and more militant attacks are expected ahead of Afghanistan’s October 20 poll.

More than 2,500 candidates are contesting the long-delayed legislative election which is seen as a test run for next year’s presidential vote.

At least nine candidates have died so far, most of them in targeted killings, according to the Independent Election Commission.

Candidate Saleh Mohammad Achakzai was among eight people killed in a suicide bomb attack on his office in the southern province of Helmand – a Taliban stronghold – on October 9. No group has claimed responsibility.

That incident came a day after the Taliban warned candidates to pull out of the “bogus” election, describing it as a “malicious American conspiracy.”

A suicide bomb attack on a rally in Nangarhar province killed 13 people and wounded more than 40 on October 2. Islamic State claimed the attack, which the candidate survived.

Violence had been expected to escalate ahead of the poll.

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.

Afghanistan peace process must tackle Taliban discontent and the allure of ISIS

With reporting from AFP. this post was updated on October 13

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