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24 killed in blast at rally

A Taliban suicide bomber on a motorcycle targeted a campaign rally by President Ashraf Ghani in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing at least 24 people and wounding 31. Ghani was present at the venue but was unharmed, according to his campaign chief.

Just hours later, an explosion struck near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul but details on that blast were not immediately known. The Taliban claimed both attacks.

The violence comes as Afghanistan faces presidential elections on Sept. 28 — a vote the Taliban vehemently oppose. The insurgent group has warned Afghans not to vote in the election, and said their fighters would target election campaigns as well as polling stations.

In Tuesday's attack in northern Parwan province, the bomber rammed his motorcycle packed with explosives into the entrance of the venue where Ghani was campaigning on the outskirts of the city of Charakar.

There were many women and children among the casualties, said Dr. Qasim Sangin, a local official.

Wahida Shahkar, spokeswoman for Parwan's governor, said the rally had just begun when the explosion occurred.

Local television footage of the attack showed twisted wreckage and charred remains of military and police vehicles that were apparently positioned near where the powerful blast

Firdaus Faramarz, spokesman for the Kabul police chief, said there was no immediate information about any casualties in the Kabul blast, which took place near Massood Square, a deeply congested intersection in the centre of Kabul. NATO and U.S. compounds are located nearby as are several Afghan government ministries.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, released a statement to the media saying Taliban suicide bombers were behind both attacks.

In Parwan, Mujahid said the bomber targeted presidential guards who were protecting Ghani and the rally, along with other members of the security forces. It wasn't immediately known if any of Ghani's guards were among the casualties.

Mujahid claimed the suicide bomber in Kabul targeted an Afghan army base.



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