Afghan election front runner Abdullah Abdullah survives assassination attempt

Six die in second attempt on life of Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 June, 2014, 1:25am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 June, 2014, 1:25am


Afghan presidential front runner Abdullah Abdullah escaped an assassination attempt when two blasts hit his campaign motorcade in Kabul, killing at least six people just ahead of a hotly contested run-off election.

It was the second attack targeting Abdullah during Afghanistan's fractious election season, which has seen an uptick in violence with Taliban militants threatening to disrupt the polls.

Abdullah said he was unhurt in yesterday's blasts but lost three campaign colleagues, who were among six civilians killed, according to the interior ministry.

"Based on initial police information, six people were killed and 22 others were wounded in the attack," the ministry said.

Blood was splattered near one vehicle in the convoy, which was badly charred, while medics carried a body away on a stretcher.

The blast site was cordoned off by security officials as ambulances rushed to the scene and took the wounded to hospital, making their way through a sandstorm that hit the capital.

"The first attack was a suicide car bomb on a convoy of Dr Abdullah Abdullah and the second was a mine attack," said Sayed Gul Agha Hashemi, head of Kabul police's criminal investigation branch.

But Kabul police chief Mohammed Zahir said both explosions were carried out by suicide bombers. He said the first was a driver who blew up a vehicle and the second was a suicide bomber on foot. Such conflicting accounts are common in the chaotic immediate aftermath of attacks in Afghanistan.

The blasts destroyed several cars and nearby storefronts, leaving the street littered with twisted metal and other rubble.

The blast occurred soon after Abdullah left an election rally in the city's Ariana hotel. Some witnesses in the area reported hearing two ear-splitting explosions.

Abdullah also survived an attack on his campaign motorcade in February when he was travelling between Kabul and the eastern city of Jalalabad.

The latest attempt came ahead of the second-round presidential election on June 14, which Taliban insurgents have threatened to disrupt No one has yet claimed responsibility for it.

Afghanistan is in the middle of elections to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who has ruled since the fall of the 1996-2001 Taliban regime.

Abdullah fell short of the 50 per cent threshold needed for an outright victory in the April first round and will face former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani in the run-off.

"We condemn the attack on respected presidential candidate Dr. Abdullah Abdullah," Ghani said on Twitter. "This is the act of the enemies of Afghanistan to disrupt the democratic process in the country."

Karzai also denounced the attack, saying in a statement that it was "the work of the enemies of Afghanistan who don't want Afghanistan to have a free and peaceful election".

The vote comes at a pivotal time as the international community prepares to withdraw combat forces by the end of the year. Both Abdullah and Ghani have pledged to sign a security pact with the United States that will allow thousands of foreign troops to remain in the country beyond this year in a training and advisory capacity.

The new president will face the daunting task of resetting relations with Washington, which have taken a battering from Karzai's increasing anti-American rhetoric.

Additional reporting by Associated Press