A suicide blast in southern Afghanistan has killed a parliamentary candidate along with nine supporters, a day after the Taliban insurgent group announced it would disrupt the upcoming national elections with violent attacks.
An official said the bomber targeted a campaign office in Lashkargah, capital of the southern Helmand province. Provincial police spokesman Abdul Salam Afghan told VOA that the blast wounded at least 15 people. He identified the slain candidate as Saleh Mohammad Achakzai, who was contesting a seat in the lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga.
Witnesses expect the number of casualties to rise because the campaign office was crowed at the time of the attack.
Monday, the Taliban said it ordered insurgent fighters to halt the election process by staging attacks on officials and Afghan security forces protecting voters, as well as thousands of polling stations around Afghanistan.
The Islamist insurgency denounced the democratic process as an American ploy to bring its 'stooges' to the parliament to prolong the 'foreign occupation' of the country. The Taliban urged Afghan voters and candidates to boycott the elections.
Election officials say more than 2,500 candidates, including over 400 women, are competing for the 249 seats in the Wolesi Jirga. The elections are taking place after a delay of more than three years due to a lack of reforms and security reasons.
Intimidation and attacks against candidates, their agents and supporters during the October campaigning period have already killed more than 20 people and wounded dozens more. Candidates, their security guards and relatives were among the victims.
Helmand is the largest Afghan province, in which most of the districts are controlled or hotly contested by the Taliban. The insurgents are also entrenched around Lashkargah.