Afghanistan blasts: 48 killed, 42 injured in two attacks by Taliban; Ashraf Ghani escapes unhurt from one of the explosions

FP Staff

Taliban suicide bombers killed 48 people in two separate attacks in Afghanistan on Tuesday, the deadliest of the two explosions being one near President Ashraf Ghani's election rally.  The explosion at the rally killed at least 26 people and injured 42 others. According to Ghani's campaign aide, the president was unharmed.

Just hours later, another explosion struck near the US Embassy in Kabul but details on that blast were not immediately known.

According to AP, the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told AP that one suicide bomber targeted the presidential guards who were protecting Ghani and the rally in northern Parwan province along with other members of the security forces.

The bomber rammed his motorcycle packed with explosives into the entrance of the venue where Ghani was campaigning on the outskirts of the city of Charakar in northern Parwan province.

While AP put the toll at 26, Gulf Today reported citing police and health officials that at least 45 were killed and dozens were injured in the blast.

Mujahid claimed another suicide bomber in Kabul targeted an Afghan army base. Afghan officials have not yet provided details on that attack.

There were many women and children among the casualties, said Dr Qasim Sangin, a local official. Wahida Shahkar, spokeswoman for Parwan's governor said the rally had just begun when the explosion occurred.

Firdaus Faramarz, the spokesman for the Kabul police chief, said there was no immediate information about casualties in the Kabul blast, which took place near Massood Square, a deeply congested intersection in the centre of Kabul. NATO and US compounds are located nearby as are several Afghan government ministries.

Campaigning for the Afghan elections resumed last week after President Donald Trump declared that the US-Taliban talks which have been going on for months in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar are over.

Most presidential candidates had suspended their campaigns while negotiations were taking place and as the US peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad said a deal was all but signed.

Trump's tweets at the beginning of September declaring the deal and the talks were "dead" launched the war-battered nation on an election campaign.

Ghani, who had been sidelined during much of the talks between Khalilzad and the Taliban, resumed campaigning immediately and had been steadfast in his demand that presidential polls should take place.

Khalilzad and some of Ghani's rivals, however, had talked of establishing an interim administration to run the country while a peace deal was implemented.

In the aftermath of the scrapped talks, Afghans braced for what many expected to be an increase in violence.

The Taliban have opposed the elections and have refused to meet with representatives of Ghani's government for talks. They have also refused to agree to a cease-fire.

But it was two attacks in Kabul in recent weeks that caused Trump to halt the negotiations with the Taliban, including one that killed two NATO soldiers, one of whom was an American. Another US soldier died in combat in Afghanistan on Monday.

With inputs from Reuters

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