Authorities say a suicide car bombing in southern Afghanistan killed at least five people and wounded about 40 others, including soldiers. The violence continues as candidates campaign for the country’s runoff presidial vote.
The deadly attack occurred in Kandahar province, one of the violence-hit southern Afghan regions where Taliban insurgents routinely carry out such attacks. An Afghan army vehicle was said to be the target of the suicide bombing in which mostly civilians were killed or wounded.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
Meanwhile, Afghan presidential frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah received a boost to his presidential campaign before a runoff election scheduled for mid June.
Former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul, who finished third in the April 5 election, endorsed Abdullah, saying they will form a coalition.
Speaking together in Kabul, Rassoul said “national unity, stability, peace and prosperity” formed basis of his decision to back Abdullah because Afghans are tired of war and discrimination.
“The primary reason” he said to join hands with Abdullah, “is to prevent the election from being decided on regional and ethnic grounds.” It will also lead Afghanistan to political stability, he added.
Rassoul was widely seen as a favorite of incumbent President Hamid Karzai, who was unable to participate because of constitutional limits.
Abdullah praised the decision of his former rival, describing it as an important step to promote national unity.
He said Sunday’s decision must have disappointed “enemies of Afghanistan” who want to see the country remain trapped in an ethnic crisis.
Rassoul comes from Afghanistan’s royal family and draws support largely from the majority Pashtun Afghans, who view Abdullah as a leader of ethnic Tajik community because of his mixed family background.
But election observers believe that contrary to traditional practices, Abdullah drew support from Pashtun voters that put him on top of the list of presidential hopefuls in the first round. Another former presidential candidate, Gul Agha Shirzai, once governor of Pashtun-dominated Kandahar province, has already endorsed Abdullah.
Abdullah got 45 percent of the vote in the first round while his nearest rival, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, a Pashtun Afghan, finished at 32 percent.
Election authorities will declare the final results of the April 5 presidential polls on Wednesday May 14.
A candidate has to garner at least 50 percent of the vote to win the election in the first round. The decisive second-round between Abdullah and Ghani was to be held two weeks after the announcement of final results, but election authorities have already delayed it until mid June.