Taliban suicide attackers killed at least 30 people in Afghanistan on Tuesday, their deadliest bombing taking place near an election rally by President Ashraf Ghani, although he was unhurt.
The attacks happened 11 days before Afghanistan’s presidential elections, which Taliban commanders have vowed to violently disrupt, and follow collapsed peace talks between the United States and the insurgent group.
Ghani, who is seeking a second five-year term in voting on Sept. 28, was due to address a rally in Charikar, the capital of central Parwan province, when a bomber attacked the gathering.
The blast killed 24 people and wounded 31, said Abdul Qasim Sangin, head of Parwan’s provincial hospital.
“Women and children are among them and most of the victims seem to be civilians. Ambulances are still operating, and the number of casualties may rise,” Sangin said.
A local government official said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber. The president was nearby but unharmed, a Ghani aide said.
In a separate incident, a blast went off in the centre of the capital Kabul, sending ambulances and Afghan forces rushing to the blast site.
“I was waiting at the entrance of the recruitment centre,” said Mustafa Ghiasi, lying on a hospital bed after being wounded in the explosion. “I was behind two men in line when suddenly the blast struck.”
At least six people were killed and 14 wounded, according to police and health officials.
The injured “are in good health conditions and those needed operations have been transferred to the operation theatre,” said Haji Khan Zazi of the Afghan Ministry of Public Health.
The Taliban claimed the two attacks, and a statement issued by a spokesman for the insurgents said they were aimed at security forces.
“People were given warning,” the statement said.
“Do not take part in the puppet administration’s election rallies, because all such gatherings are our military target,” said the statement. “If, despite the warning, someone gets hurt, they themselves are to blame.”
Security at rallies across the country has been tight following threats by the Taliban to attack meetings and polling stations. The group has vowed to intensify clashes with Afghan and foreign forces to dissuade people from voting in the upcoming elections.
Last week, peace talks between the United States and the Taliban collapsed. The two sides had been seeking to reach an accord on the withdrawal of thousands of American troops from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees from the insurgents.
The negotiations, which did not include the Afghan government, were intended as a prelude to wider peace negotiations to end more than more 40 years of war in Afghanistan.