At least 20 people were killed and more than 50 injured in a suicide bombing and gun battle in the Afghan capital of Kabul yesterday, the government said today.
The attack took place at the office of vice-presidential candidate Amrullah Saleh just hours after he and his running mate President Ashraf Ghani launched their respective election campaigns.
Mr Saleh was slightly injured in the attack during which Afghan forces killed three militants who entered his office and opened fire.
More than 150 civilians were rescued in the six-hour operation, Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said today.
Mr Saleh was evacuated from the building and moved to a safe location, along with dozens of other bystanders trapped inside the offices, Mr Rahimi said.
Former head of Afghanistan’s intelligence services Mr Saleh is known for his anti-Pakistan and anti-Taliban positions.
The gun battle came after a suicide bomber blew himself up during rush hour in the Afghan capital.
No group had claimed responsibility for the attack at the time the Star went to print but government officials hinted that they believed Taliban militants were responsible.
Presidential elections are due to take place on September 28, but the security situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate.
Both a resurgent Taliban and Isis jihadists are mounting almost daily attacks on Afghan forces, state employees and civilians.
Fighting continues between government forces and jihadists despite US and Taliban negotiators holding peace talks in the Gulf state of Qatar.
They are hoping to reach a deal that will bring stability to Afghanistan, leading to the withdrawal of all US and other foreign forces from the country.
But US President Donald Trump inflamed tensions further last week when he boasted he could end the war “in a week” but doesn’t want to “kill 10 million people.”
Officials in Washington are believed to be pressuring Kabul to call off the elections for fear that a corrupt and fraudulent poll may derail the peace talks.
Afghan-to-Afghan negotiations appear to have stalled, with the Taliban refusing to meet government representatives in an official capacity, deeming them “puppets of Washington.”
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said the Islamists would not enter discussions with Mr Ghani’s administration until the announcement of a foreign troop withdrawal.
About 14,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan as part of a Nato mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces and to carry out counterterrorism operations.