Afghan presidential front-runner escapes blast

2014-06-06 22:30
Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah shortly before two blasts struck a convoy carrying Abdullah. (Rahmat Gul, AP)

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah shortly before two blasts struck a convoy carrying Abdullah. (Rahmat Gul, AP)

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Kabul - Afghan presidential front-runner Abdullah Abdullah said he had escaped an assassination attempt Friday when an explosion hit his campaign motorcade in Kabul just days ahead of a hotly contested run-off election.

"A few minutes ago, when we left a campaign rally our convoy was hit by a mine," Abdullah told another election rally in quotes broadcast on Afghan television. He added that some of his guards were mildly wounded, while he was unhurt.

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, television footage showed.

The assassination attempt on Abdullah came ahead of the second-round presidential election on 14 June, which Taliban insurgents have threatened to disrupt.

No one has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.

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% 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."

President Barack Obama recently outlined the US strategy to end America's longest war, saying that the 32 000-strong US deployment in Afghanistan would be scaled back to around 9 800 by the start of 2015.

Those forces would be halved by the end of 2015 before eventually being reduced to a normal embassy presence with a security assistance component by the end of 2016.

But the draw down relies on Afghanistan signing a long-delayed Bilateral Security Agreement laying out the terms of the US military presence in the country after this year.

The outgoing Karzai refuses to sign the pact, but both Afghan presidential candidates have vowed to sign it if elected.

Read more on:    abdullah abdullah  |  afghanistan
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