Suicide bomber kills at least 26 near Ghani speech in Afghanistan

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani was unharmed Tuesday after a suspected suicide bomber set off explosives near a campaign rally in Charikar, killing at least 26 people and injuring 42.

An Afghan police officer patrols in Kabul, Afghanistan. Authorities said a suicide bombing Tuesday killed 26 people near a location where the Afghan president was giving a campaign speech. File Photo by Jawad Jalali

The bomber drove a motorcycle to the location, Parwan provincial spokeswoman Wahida Shahkar said. Those at the rally had traveled to an airfield to hear Ghani speak.

The explosion happened just as Ghani started his speech at 11:40 a.m. local time.

Elections are scheduled later this month.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming they were targeting security forces at the rally. Peace talks between the militant group that once ran Afghanistan and the United States stalled earlier this month after President Donald Trump canceled the meeting at Camp David.

Tuesday’s rally was held under tight security and attendees went through a series of searches. Ghani had campaigned around the country without violence until Tuesday.

In another attack Tuesday, an explosion occurred near the U.S. Embassy in the vicinity of Kabul’s Massoud Square, but no injuries were reported. Interior officials said a suicide bomber was also responsible for that attack.

The Taliban has vowed to continue fighting in after U.S. President Donald Trump declared peace talks “dead,” in the wake of a blast that killed a U.S. soldier. Ghani has called on the Taliban to sign on to a cease-fire.

ByClyde Hughes