Four People Killed in Taliban Attack on Kabul Election Office

Four people were killed in a militant attack on an Afghan election commission office in southwestern Kabul today, as the Taliban stepped up an offensive ahead of presidential voting next month.

Two policemen, a candidate for a provincial office and an election commission worker were killed after five Taliban fighters detonated a suicide vest and a bomb-laden car, Interior Ministry spokesman Siddiq Siddiqui said by phone. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed claimed responsibility in an e-mailed statement.

The Taliban have vowed to disrupt the April 5 polls to pick a successor for President Hamid Karzai and elect provincial council members. The U.S. is counting on Karzai’s successor to sign an agreement that would keep American troops in the country beyond this year.

The deal would allow Afghanistan to continue to receive billions of dollars in funds used to pay government salaries and fight militants seeking to upend the country’s democracy.

The Taliban are boycotting the elections, calling them illegitimate and a U.S. conspiracy, Mujahed said in a March 10 statement. The group plans to use “all force” to disrupt the polls and target voters and officials, he said.

Afghan security forces shot dead the five militants at the election commission office, located next to the house of an Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, Siddiqui said.

Election commission spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor confirmed the attack on their office, while declining to provide more information.

Taliban militants killed nine people, including an Afghan reporter and his family, in an attack on Kabul’s Serena hotel on March 21. More than 8,000 civilians were killed or injured in armed conflicts in 2013, a 14 percent increase from the previous year, according to a February report from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

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