Ghani ‘unhurt’ as blast kills 48 at Afghan president’s rally


International desk, September 17:Two separate suicide attacks in Afghanistan have killed at least 48 people and injured dozens others.

In Parwan province, north of the capital Kabul, an election rally where President Ashraf Ghani was due to speak was attacked, and 26 people died.

Another blast, near the US embassy in central Kabul, killed 22 people.

The Taliban said they were behind both attacks. The group has continued a concerted bombing campaign while at the same time taking part in peace talks.

But US President Donald Trump described the negotiations with the Taliban as “dead” earlier this month.

The meeting in Parwan province, north of the capital Kabul, was about to be addressed by President Ashraf Ghani.

The Taliban said it was behind both attacks. The group has continued a concerted bombing campaign while at the same time taking part in peace talks.

The Taliban refuse to talk to the Afghan government and have vowed to disrupt the presidential election in the country on 28 September.

In a statement, they said: “We already warned people not to attend election rallies, if they suffer any losses that is their own responsibility.”

A local government official said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber.

Abdul Qasim Sangin, head of the provincial hospital, said women and children were among the victims.

“Most of the victims seem to be the civilians. Ambulances are still operating, and the number of casualties may rise,” he was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

Ghani was present at the time of the explosion but is safe and unharmed, his campaign spokesman, Hamed Aziz, was quoted as saying by The Associated Press news agency.

Wahida Shahkar, spokeswoman for the provincial governor in Parwan, said the explosion happened at the entrance of the venue hosting the rally.

In a separate incident on Tuesday, another explosion killed at least three people in the centre of Afghanistan’s capital city Kabul, police officials said.

Across Afghanistan, attacks have continued as the country prepares for a presidential election later this month.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride reporting from Kabul said that it’s not known whether Ghani is still present at the site and whether security will allow him to remain in place and later address the rally.

McBride added that compared to previous elections, there has been a deterioration in security.

“Everybody has been expecting since peace talks broke down and the government reaffirmed its commitment to going ahead with this election, amid threats from the Taliban that they would disrupt things, that we are going to see an uptick in violence,” McBride said, adding that there have been more attacks than usual including over the weekend when the power lines that supply electricity to Kabul were brought down.

“But the government seems determined that it will go through with this election and its committed more than 70,000 security forces across the country to ensure that this election will go ahead.

“But by its own admission, instead of the 7,000 polling stations that were opened five years ago during the last election, already we know that the number’s probably going to be about 5,000,” McBride said.