KABUL (ITIP): Taliban militants staged a gun and suicide attack on an Afghan election commission office in Kabul on March 23, killing two police officers, with less than a fortnight to go before the presidential poll. The insurgents have vowed a campaign of violence to disrupt the ballot on April 5, urging their fighters to attack polling staff, voters and security forces in the runup to election day.
Afghan security forces battled attackers at an office of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) in the western Darulaman area of the Afghan capital for more than four hours. “At around 11:35am (0705 GMT) a suicide bomber blew himself up at the gate of an IEC regional office in Darulaman, and then several other attackers entered the building,” Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Estanakzai said. Two police officers were killed in the fighting along with five attackers who entered the IEC building, interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said to TOLO television news.
Witness Ahmad Sharif, a government employee, said he heard two loud explosions followed by gunfire. The attack was close to the home of Ashraf Ghani, who is seen as a frontrunner in the race to succeed President Hamid Karzai. A member of Ghani’s campaign team said the former World Bank economist was out of Kabul at the time, campaigning in the eastern province of Paktia, and Ghani said on Twitter that his family, who were in the house, were safe.
Staff at the IEC office were able to reach special safety rooms, spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said. The Taliban, who have led the insurgency against Karzai’s government and its foreign backers since 2001, claimed the attack in a statement on their website. On March 27 four Taliban gunmen stormed Kabul’s Serena hotel and shot dead nine civilians including Agence France- Presse journalist Sardar Ahmad, his wife and two of his three children.