Bombing Hits Afghan President's Rally in Northern Province, Kills 24

Bombing Hits Afghan President's Rally in Northern Province, Kills 24

Just hours later, an explosion struck near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, killing 22 and wounding 38.

The insurgents have said previously that the only other option is to continue fighting.

He also defended the Taliban for taking shelter in civilian homes, and refused to be drawn on the many direct Taliban attacks which had killed ordinary men, women and children.

The Taliban, which considers itself the only legitimate ruling body in the country, vowed to disrupt the elections to dissuade people from voting as Ghani vies for a second five-year term.

"We already warned people not to attend election rallies".

A local government official said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber.

"The toll includes women and children", Parwan hospital director Dr Abdul Qasim Sangin told AFP.

Two attackers had been killed by forces so far, according to Nasrat Rahimi, spokesman for the interior ministry.

No group immediately claimed the attack, and it was not clear how many people had been inside the centre - where Afghans can register for their national electronic identification cards, or "tazkiras" - at the time.

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The Taliban - who are now in control of more territory than at any point before the 2001 US-led invasion - do not recognise the legitimacy of President Ashraf Ghani's administration. Ghani had been due to address the rally in Charikar, capital of Parwan province, north of Kabul, when the suspected militant attack occurred.

After Tuesday's bombing, Ghani released a statement saying, "By continuing to commit atrocities, the Taliban demonstrates that they don't have the will for peace or stability of Afghanistan", according to TOLO News. The Taliban have warned that polling stations and election campaigns would be targeted.

Mr Ghani was nearby but unharmed, and later took to Twitter to condemn the bombing at the rally.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but both Taliban and Islamic State group are active in eastern Afghanistan.

Wahida Shahkar, spokeswoman for the provincial governor in Parwan, says the explosion happened while the rally was underway on Tuesday, at the entrance to the venue.

Trump had said the United States was walking away from negotiations after almost a year of grinding diplomatic efforts to strike a deal that could pave the way for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan following 18 years of war.

For weeks, the election had been sidelined by the US-Taliban talks, with many Afghans and observers expecting the vote to be cancelled if a deal was agreed.

If talks are resumed, Ghani's officials say Khalilzad's format of holding separate negotiations with the Taliban as a preliminary step to later talks between Afghan participants in the conflict can not be repeated. Trump also loosened the US rules of engagement (ROE) in Afghanistan further, no longer requiring USA troops to be in contact with the Taliban before opening fire.

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