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Afghanistan: Taliban gunman attacks high-level security meeting in Kandahar governor’s office

Deaths of top officials shooting effectively guts the leadership of the southern province ahead of October 20 elections

Gunmen attacked a high-level security meeting at the governor’s office in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, NATO’s Resolute Support said Thursday, October 18.

The shooting happened after the meeting concluded and officials were leaving, Tolo news reported.

Kandahar province police chief General Abdul Raziq and other senior officials were reported to be among the casualties.

Also killed was the National Security Directorate provincial chief, identified as General Mominera, the New York Times reported deputy governor Agha Lalay Datagiri as saying.

Tolo News identified the NDS chief as Abdulmomin Hassankhail.

Kandahar governor Zalmay Wesa was initially reported dead but survived the shooting.

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the shooting, saying an “infiltrator,” Abu Dujana, targeted Raziq and General Scott Miller, commander of Resolute Support and U.S. Forces Afghanistan. The Taliban and Afghan officials said Dujana was one of Raziq’s bodyguards.

“There was a situation at the Kandahar palace today. Initial reports indicate this was an Afghan-on-Afghan incident. Two Americans were wounded in the cross-fire and they have been medically evacuated,” Resolute Support spokesperson Colonel Knut Peters told The Defense Post.

Later, Peters said three Americans were injured – a U.S. service member, a civilian and a coalition contractor.

Miller attended the meeting but was not injured, Peters said.

The general took command of the NATO and U.S. missions in Afghanistan on September 2.

Six of Raziq’s bodyguards and two intelligence officers were wounded in the attack, AFP reported a source as saying.

Election security

The shooting effectively guts the leadership of the southern province two days before provincial elections. Ten candidates have been killed in recent weeks in attacks claimed by the Taliban, including Abdul Jabar Qahraman, who was killed Wednesday by a bomb placed under a chair in his Helmand province campaign office.

Qahraman was the second candidate killed in Lashkargah this month, after Saleh Mohammad Asikzai was among eight people killed in a suicide attack last week.

The Taliban has warned candidates to withdraw from the long-delayed parliamentary election, which it has also threatened to attack.

More than 50,000 members of Afghanistan’s already overstretched security forces are being deployed to protect polling centers on election day.

Peace process

It’s unclear how Thursday’s attack could impact the peace process, which President Ashraf Ghani has prioritized in an effort to end 17 years of war.

In July, the Taliban reportedly met with U.S. officials after an unprecedented ceasefire in June, which fuelled hopes of future peace talks.

A Taliban delegation met with U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar on October 12, the first official confirmation of discussions between the two sides.

The group made clear that the presence of foreign forces in the country was a major barrier to lasting peace.

Both sides “agreed to continue such meetings” in the future, the statement added, without providing further details.

A spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Kabul declined to comment on the Taliban statement.

The Taliban has long called for bilateral talks with the United States, but Washington has repeatedly refused, insisting the process must be Afghan-led.

This story was updated throughout the day on October 18.

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