Afghan assistants assassinated
With the first ever democratic elections taking place in Afghanistan in April, Presidential campaigns finally began last week.
However, with a rising threat coming from Taliban insurgents which threatens to disrupt the proceedings, turnouts are expected to be low in many areas of the country, whilst the campaign will be a major test for the 350,000-strong Afghan security forces.
Just last weekend, two assistants of presidential candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, were shot dead in Herat in build up to the official election campaign.
“I can confirm that armed men killed Dr Hamdard who was to lead our election campaign team in Herat, along with another team member in Herat city this evening,” Sayed Fazel Sangcharaki, a spokesman for Mr Abdullah said.
Abdul Rauf Ahmadi, a police spokesman in the western city of Heart also confirmed the incident.
“Unfortunately two people, namely Ahmad Hamdard and Shujahideen were killed in the fourth district of Herat city this evening. Unidentified gunmen opened fire on them in the middle of the street,” he said.
The police spokesman only gave one name for the second victim. Sangcharaki said Hamdard had worked with Abdullah during the last presidential campaign in 2009, and lamented the lack of security given to his campaign by the government.
“This incident at the beginning of the election campaign is a bad sign as either the security forces are incapable of providing security for the election campaign or they do not take their job seriously,” he said.
Taliban insurgents have threatened to target the campaign, and the Afghan police and army face a major challenge with little support from the dwindling number of NATO troops.
The interior ministry hopes to open 6,431 of the 6,845 polling centres, though fear of insurgent violence could keep turnout low.
Only about one-third of registered voters cast their ballots last time — significantly lower than previous elections — and the turnout may decline further.