A suspected suicide bomb attack at an election rally in southern Afghanistan has killed at least eight people, officials say, as militants escalate their attacks across the country ahead of general elections scheduled for later this month.
Umar Shakti, the provincial governor’s spokesman, told RFE/RL that 11 people were also injured in the bombing, which took place in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, a Taliban stronghold.
The bomb struck the office of a parliamentary election candidate, Saleh Mohammad Khan Achakzai, while a campaign rally was under way, said Haji Abdul Aahad Sultanzoy, a member of the provincial council
Achakzai was among those wounded.
No group claimed responsibility for the bombing, which comes as the Taliban and the Islamic State (IS) militant groups have stepped up attacks across Afghanistan ahead of long-delayed parliamentary polls set for October 20.
Last week in the eastern province of Nangarhar, at least 18 people were killed in a suicide bombing at an election rally. The IS group claimed responsibility for that attack.
And the Taliban on October 8 vowed to do everything in its power to block the vote, which the group called an "American conspiracy to further justify the foreign occupation."
The militants said that they will target anyone who tries to help the election process to succeed, especially the Afghan security forces.
On October 9, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) insisted that taking part in elections was a citizen's right enshrined in the Afghan Constitution and a basic human right for all people.
"Afghan men and women have a basic human right to freely choose their government and leaders," Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN secretary-general's special representative for Afghanistan and the head of UNAMA said in a statement.
Yamamoto called on "all actors in Afghan society do everything within their power to safeguard this fundamental right so that citizens can cast their vote without obstruction, threat, or intimidation."
At least eight parliamentary candidates have been reported killed across Afghanistan in the past two months.
In the northern province of Jawzjan, officials said that a Taliban assault killed at least 12 members of Afghanistan’s security forces and wunded 10 others in the northern province of Jawzjan.
Provincial police chief General Faqir Mohammad Jawzjani said the attack occurred in Qosh Tepa district late on October 8.
Jawzjani added that 30 militants were also killed and another 19 wounded in the attack, which he described as a failed attempt to capture the district.
Abdul Hai Hayat, the head of Jawzjan Province’s council, said a total of 13 security forces were killed and another 20 were wounded in the overnight assault.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the group was claiming responsibility for the attack.