Afghan poll candidate killed during holiday prayers

A bomb in a graveyard in northern Afghanistan killed a parliamentary candidate and a retired policeman and wounded five, including a mayor, on Tuesday, an intelligence official said.

Last Updated: Nov 16, 2010, 19:39 PM IST

Kunduz: A bomb in a graveyard in northern Afghanistan killed a parliamentary candidate and a retired policeman and wounded five, including a mayor, on Tuesday, an intelligence official said.

The attack happened in the Khan Abad district of northern Kunduz province as the men prayed inside the graveyard to mark the start of the Muslim Eid al Adha holiday, provincial intelligence chief Abdul Rahman Aqtash said.

Violence in Afghanistan was already at its worst since the Taliban were overthrown by US-backed Afghan forces in late 2001 but a dramatic increase in attacks in the past few days will be a sobering message for NATO leaders ahead of a summit this week.

Mohammad Islam Mujahid, a candidate from Kunduz in Afghanistan`s September parliamentary election, and Haji Bismillah, a retired police official, were killed in the attack, Aqtash said.

Bismillah was the brother of the mayor of Kunduz city.

The mayor, who had been praying with the other men, was wounded along with four civilians, Aqtash said, adding the bomb had been placed near the grave before the men had arrived.

Tuesday marks the first day of Eid al Adha. Afghans traditionally visit the graves of loved ones to offer prayers.

It was not immediately clear whether the attack was carried out by Taliban insurgents or by election rivals.

Once relatively peaceful, northern Afghanistan has seen a spike in violence over the past year as insurgents move out of their strongholds in the south and east. Militants frequently use Kunduz as a springboard to launch attacks in surrounding areas.

The September 18 election for Afghanistan`s lower house of parliament went ahead despite insurgent threats to disrupt it, although at least 17 people were killed on the day in poll-related violence.

Four candidates were also killed before polling day.

Final results have still not been announced nearly two months after the election amid serious fraud concerns and calls from hundreds of candidates for the election to be annulled. The election body has already tossed out a quarter of the votes.

The U N-backed election watchdog said on Monday it had finished verifying 2,495 complaints that could affect the outcome and would send its findings to election officials so final results could be announced as soon as possible.

With no new parliament on the immediate horizon, President Hamid Karzai`s government still has a shaky look and some ministries are still being run by caretakers.

Violence has also spiked ahead of the NATO conference.

On Sunday the NATO-led force said five of its troops were killed in a clash with insurgents in the east, its worst loss in a single incident in six months. At least 645 foreign troops have been killed so far in 2010, by far the deadliest year of the war.

Civilian deaths are also at record levels and Karzai, looking for a way to end the fighting, has included talks with the Taliban as part of a wider reconciliation plan.

During his traditional holiday message on Tuesday, Karzai reiterated an invitation to the militants to take part in a peace process. The Taliban are opposed to talks while there are foreign troops in Afghanistan, a stance their leader repeated on Monday.

Bureau Report