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Afghan Blast Adds to Election Security Fears

A suicide bomber has attacked a busy market in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 15 civilians. There are some fears that violence will increase before the April 5 Afghan presidential and provincial elections.

A man driving a rickshaw into a crowded market Tuesday detonated the bomb, killing or wounding scores of civilians in the northern province of Faryab.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place near a security checkpoint, but the Taliban and allied militants are known to operate in the area.

A lawmaker from Faryab, Naqibullah Fayeq, said the suicide bomber killed only innocent bystanders.

He said the very sad part of this attack was that all those killed were women, children and workers.

President Hamid Karzai blamed the attack on those working for “foreign interests,” but did not elaborate.

The bomb blast added to the security concerns surrounding the April 5 elections. The Taliban have threatened all those who take part in the vote.

Jandad Speenghar of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan said violence would affect the voting.

"Any security incident close to the election day can affect psychologically on people participation, especially on those areas where such event is happening of course the people of that area might [be] scared and not participate in the election. It will affect directly on people of specific areas," said Speenghar.

Lawmaker Fayeq said more attacks were expected. He called for Karzai to put an end to the violence.

He said, "Right now the security forces in Faryab are saying they are expecting more suicide bombings and explosions in the province." Fayeq wanted the Afghan government and the Afghan president to ask his Taliban brothers to stop the explosions.

He said "What happened today was not an explosion, it was a massacre."
The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in a statement that the use of homemade bombs in a civilian location such as a market was “atrocious and cannot be justified.”

In the first two and a half months of 2014, homemade bombs or IEDs have killed 190 civilians in Afghanistan, a 14 percent increase over the same period last year.
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    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.