Afghan president’s running mate injured in Kabul attack

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s running mate in upcoming elections has been wounded in an explosion that targeted his office in the Afghan capital, Kabul, and that killed at least two people.

According to the Afghan Interior Ministry’s spokesman Nasrat Rahimi, the powerful explosion occurred on Sunday in northern Kabul near the office of Green Trend, a youth and reform-focused civil society organization led by Amrullah Saleh, a former chief of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency and President Ghani’s running mate.

“At around 4:40 p.m. (1210 GMT), first a blast occurred near Green Trend office… then a number of attackers entered that office [of Saleh],” Rahimi said in a statement. “The security forces have cordoned off the area. The security forces are trying to kill the attackers as soon as possible.”

Along with Saleh, some 25 civilians were also wounded in the blast, according to Rahimi.

Saleh is a fierce opponent of the Taliban militant group, the prime suspect in the Sunday attack.

According to Rahimi, four gunmen were involved in a shooting attack that was launched against the office after the blast.

At least one of the gunmen was killed by security forces, and the three others were still in the building, exchanging fire with police.

Initial reports said that Saleh was unhurt in the attack but later updates by Reuters said that he had been lightly wounded by shrapnel before being safely taken out of his party’s office.

Images circulated in social media showed a large rising plume of smoke above the city.

Ghani, Saleh, and more than a dozen other Afghan politicians began their presidential campaign on Sunday.

“My brother, true son of the Afghan soil and first VP candidate of my electoral team, Amrullah Saleh has survived a complex attack by enemies of the state. We are relieved and thank the almighty that the attack has failed,” the Afghan president tweeted after the attack.

Government officials are routinely targeted with attacks in Afghanistan. But the Sunday raid against Saleh was the second one targeting a high-profile politician this year.

In March, an event in Kabul attended by Afghanistan’s current chief executive and former president was attacked with rockets. At least three people died and 22 others were injured in that attack.

A US-led invasion of Afghanistan ended Taliban’s five-year rule over at least three quarters of the country in 2001, but the militant group still continues to attack government and civilian targets as well as foreign forces present on Afghan soil.

The US is now negotiating with the Taliban in what is widely seen as an attempt to find a face-saving exit from the longest war in the US’s history.