20 dead as violence mars Afghan election season start - International | NTV

20 dead as violence mars Afghan election season start

Monday July 29, 2019

 

Deadly violence marred the start of Afghanistan's election season on the weekend, after President Ashraf Ghani insisted "peace is coming" to the war-torn nation.


At least 20 people were killed and 50 others wounded on Sunday in an attack targeting the Kabul office of Ghani's running mate, Amrullah Saleh.

The violence came on the first day of campaigning for the upcoming presidential elections, serving as a grim reminder of Afghanistan's woeful security situation and the sort of mayhem and murder that have beset previous polls.

The attack began around 4:40 pm (1210 GMT), when a huge blast struck near the office of Green Trend, a youth and reform-focused civil society organisation Saleh heads. He escaped without serious injury, his office said.

The interior ministry said the assault began when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-packed car at the entrance to the building, then three attackers ran inside.

After about six hours the siege ended with all attackers killed and the rescue of about 150 people who had been trapped in the building, according to the interior ministry, which also provided the toll of 20 dead and 50 wounded.

No group immediately claimed responsibility.

Earlier on Sunday, a buoyant Ghani kicked off his campaign by insisting "peace is coming," after nearly 18 years of conflict, and that pivotal talks with the Islamist extremist Taliban would take place.

He is hoping to fend off challenges from 17 other candidates to score a second term at twice-postponed presidential elections now slated for September 28.

On Saturday Ghani's peace minister, Abdul Salam Rahimi, said direct talks would take place with the Taliban within two weeks as part of a larger, US-led push for peace.

Such a development could be crucial, as the Taliban who now control or influence about half of Afghanistan have so far refused to speak to Ghani's government. They consider the Kabul administration illegitimate.