A suicide bomber has struck an election meeting in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, killing at least eight people, including a candidate for the upcoming parliamentary elections. Saleh Mohammad Achekzai was holding a meeting in front of his house when the suicide bomber detonated his explosives. The blast also killed several of Achekzai’s bodyguards, it was the second suicide attack to target a parliamentary candidate since campaigning officially kicked off on September 28 for the parliamentary elections scheduled for October 20. There are 2,565 candidates vying for seats in the 249-member chamber, including 417 female candidates. On October 2, an attack on a rally in the eastern province of Nangarhar killed 13 people and wounded more than 40. At least five people have been murdered in targeted killings so far, according to the Independent Election Commission.
Preparations for the ballot, which is more than three years late, have been in turmoil for months and there has been speculation about whether the vote would go ahead.
Bureaucratic inefficiency, allegations of fraud and an eleventh-hour pledge for biometric verification of voters threaten to derail the process and any hope of a credible result.
The Taliban armed group has called for the boycott of the elections.
“People who are trying to help in holding this process successfully by providing security should be targeted and no stone should be left unturned for the prevention and failure [of the election],” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid earlier said in the statement.
Helmand, bordering Pakistan, has long been one of the strongholds of the Taliban group, which has been waging an armed rebellion since they were removed from power in Afghanistan by US-led forces in 2001.