At least 24 people were killed and another 31 injured Tuesday after a Taliban suicide bomber aboard a motorcycle set off an explosion during a campaign rally held by President Ashraf Ghani in Northern Afghanistan.
Ghani, who is seeking his second five-year term in an election later this month, was present at the event but was not injured in the blast, according to his campaign chief.
He was preparing to address the thousands gathered on the grounds of a police training center in Parwan when the bomber rammed his motorcycle – packed with explosives – into a wall near the entrance of the sprawling venue.
Dr. Qasim Sangin, a local official, said the victims of the deadly explosion include many women and children. No additional information on those killed or injured have been released.
Just more than an hour after the first explosion, a second blast struck near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul around 1 p.m. The Afghan Interior Ministry said at least 22 people were killed and dozens more were injured.
The attack on Ghani’s campaign rally comes just weeks before the nation’s presidential elections, slated for Sept. 28. The Taliban, which claimed responsibility for both explosions, has previously condemned the vote and vowed to disrupt the election, according to NPR.
“By continuing to commit atrocities, the Taliban demonstrates that they don’t have the will for peace or stability of Afghanistan,” Ghani said in a statement Tuesday to TOLO News.
Elections will still be held, he added, and officials are “committed to providing security for the people to choose their political fate by casting their votes in a free space.”
The violence has prevented Ghani in the past from attending political rallies alongside his running mate, Amrullah Saleh – who the Taliban attempted to murder at the start of their campaign in July.
Saleh survived the incident, but 20 people were killed during the high-profile bombing in Kabul.
The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan condemned the Tuesday attack, saying that to target a campaign rally is a “despicable disregard for civilian life [and the fundamental] human right to participate in the democratic process.
“Such attacks, with scores of civilian casualties, are a violation of international law,” the organization added.
With News Wire Services