The Latest: Afghan polling in Kandahar postponed over attack
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Latest on the situation in Afghanistan ahead of the country’s parliamentary election on Saturday (all times local):
Afghanistan’s election commission has postponed Saturday’s elections in Kandahar province for a week, following a deadly attack there that killed at least two senior provincial officials, including its powerful police chief.
The Independent Election Commission’s deputy spokesman, Aziz Ibrahimi, says the decision on the postponement was made to allow mourners to observe funeral rites for the slain police chief, Abdul Raziq, and others killed in the attack.
Along with Raziq, the province’s intelligence chief and two policemen were killed. The condition of Kandahar’s governor, Zalmay Wesa, who was wounded in the attack, was shrouded in secrecy. Security officials in the capital, Kabul, maintained Wesa was wounded but survived.
Raziq’s funeral was being held Friday in Kandahar’s holiest of shrines, Kherqa Mubarak, said to contain the cloak of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed.
Pakistan’s two official border crossings with Afghanistan have closed for two days at the request of the government in Kabul, worried about the security situation during the parliamentary elections this weekend.
Pakistani foreign ministry statement says the crossings would be closed on Friday and on Saturday — the day of the elections in Afghanistan — “for all kinds of traffic except emergency cases.”
One of the crossings is at Chaman, in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan’s Kandahar province where the powerful provincial chief was assassinated on Thursday in an audacious attack claimed by the Taliban. The other crossing is at Torkham, in northwestern Pakistan.
Afghanistan and the United States have routinely accused Pakistan of harboring Taliban insurgents, a charge Islamabad denies. Following Thursday’s attack some Afghan officials railed against Pakistan, accusing its military and intelligence of inciting Afghans to carry out violent attacks against government officials. Islamabad had immediately condemned the Kandahar attack.
Afghans are preparing for the funeral for Kandahar’s powerful police chief, assassinated when one of his elite guards turned his gun on the official and killed him during a high-level meeting the previous day that was also attended by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
Abdul Raziq’s burial ceremony is to take place Friday in Kandahar’s holiest shrine, the Kherqa Mubarak shrine, said to contain a cloak worn by the Prophet Mohammad, an indication of the police chief’s stature.
Also killed in Thursday’s attack was the Kandahar intelligence chief, Abdul Mohmin, but the condition of the province’s governor, Zalmay Wesa, who was wounded in the assault, is shrouded in mystery. Some reports say Wesa has been transferred to a NATO hospital outside Kandahar.
A Kandahar hospital official says two Afghan policemen were also killed and three were wounded in the attack. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk to reporters.
—Amir Shah in Kabul, Afghanistan;
Afghanistan is reeling after the Taliban assassinated two senior officials in Kandahar province, including its powerful police chief. The top U.S. commander who attended the high-level meeting where the attack happened was unharmed.
Thursday’s meeting, on security plans for Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections this weekend, had just concluded when an elite Afghan guard turned his gun on his colleagues.
The Kandahar police chief, Abdul Raziq, and the province’s intelligence chief, Abdul Mohmin, were killed. Three Americans — a U.S. service member, a coalition contractor and an American civilian — were wounded.
A Taliban spokesman said the top U.S. commander in the country, Gen. Scott Miller, was the target.
The attack, more than 17 years after the Taliban were driven from power, underscores the harrowing insecurity in Afghanistan ahead of the elections.