Taliban suicide bombers struck NATO fuel trucks at a key border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan Thursday, setting off explosions that destroyed dozens of trucks and triggering a gunbattle with police guards that left all three attackers dead, officials said.
The attack underscored the instability plaguing the country and the continuing danger to the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan as combat forces prepare to withdraw by the end of this year.
Western officials had hoped a peaceful transfer of authority to a new president in democratic elections would help ease the transition, but instead allegations of massive fraud in the June 14 runoff vote have plunged the country into a new political crisis.
Abdullah Abdullah, who is running against Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, said Thursday that the Independent Electoral Commission had ignored his call to stop the ballot counting and other demands so he will not resume co-operation with the panel or its affiliated complaints commission.
"We will not consider those two institutions as legitimate from now onwards, because of their disregard of the legitimate demands of us on behalf of millions of people of Afghanistan," he said at a news conference.
Abdullah acknowledged concerns the crisis could further destabilize the country but said the responsibility for that ultimately lies with the commissions, which were appointed by outgoing President Hamid Karzai. Abdullah's comments come as he is fighting for his second chance at the presidency. He was the runner-up to Karzai in disputed 2009 elections, but he dropped out of the race before a runoff could be held because of widespread vote-rigging.
Abdullah, a former foreign minister who won the first round on April 5 but failed to gain the majority needed to avoid a runoff, said his campaign monitors had recorded ballot box stuffing and other irregularities. He announced Wednesday that he was suspending co-operation with the electoral commissions and demanded that the head of the IEC's chief officer Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail be suspended for alleged ballot tampering. IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said Wednesday an investigation had been carried out on the issue and the case was being decided by the complaints commission.
Preliminary results are not due until July 2, followed by final results on July 22, according to the official timetable. Electoral officials have said they would release partial results before that but have not yet done so.
The winner will replace Karzai, the only leader the country has known since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban. He was constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.