Ashraf Ghani gestures during an election campaign rally in Kabul earlier this month [Omar Sobhan/[Reuters] At least 24 people have been killed and more than 30 wounded in a bomb blast near an election rally held by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who is reported to be safe and unharmed.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday‘s explosion in Charikar, the capital of Parwan province, north of Kabul.
Abdul Qasim Sangin, head of Parwan hospital, told Al Jazeera the blast killed 24 people and wounded 32 others. The casualties included children and there are fears the number of victims could rise.
Ghani was present at the time of the explosion but is safe and unharmed, his campaign spokesman, Hamed Aziz, was quoted as saying by The Associated Press news agency.
Wahida Shahkar, spokeswoman for the provincial governor in Parwan, said the explosion happened at the entrance of the venue hosting the rally.
Shahkar added that “the blast was caused by an IED [improvised explosive device] in a security vehicle”.
Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the bomber had been on a motorbike and had detonated at the first checkpoint leading to the rally.
Second blast in Kabul In a separate incident just hours later on Tuesday, another explosion went off in Kabul, near the Green Zone, where the defense ministry, US embassy and NATO headquarters are located. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack in Afghanistan’s capital.
Across Afghanistan, attacks have continued as the country prepares for a presidential election later this month.
The Taliban has warned that they will intensify their campaign against Afghan government and foreign forces to dissuade people from voting in the September 28 presidential election, when Ghani will bid for a second five-year term.
Afghan security forces at the site of the blast in Kabul [Omar Sobhani/Reuters] Last week, US President Donald Trump abruptly ended talks with the Taliban seeking to reach a deal on the withdrawal of thousands of US troops from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees from the group.
The talks, which did not include the Afghan government, were intended as a prelude to wider peace negotiations.
“Everybody has been expecting since the peace talks broke down and the government reaffirmed its commitment to go ahead with this election, amid threats from the Taliban that they would disrupt things, that there was going to be an uptick in violence,” Al Jazeera‘s Rob McBride, reporting from Kabul, said.
“The government seems determined to go through with this election and has committed more than 70,000 security forces across the country to ensure that it will go ahead,” he added.
“But by its own admission, instead of the 7,000 polling stations that were opened five years ago during the last election, the number now is probably going to be around 5,000.”
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies