With Afghanistan's presidential election less than two weeks away, the Taliban is stepping up its campaign to intimidate citizens from voting with violence and bloodshed. On Tuesday, in what appeared to be coordinated attacks, insurgents and suicide bombers targeted the Independent Election Commission in Kabul, a New Kabul Bank branch in the eastern province of Kunar, and a sporting event in Kunduz.
The IEC office in Kabul is located beside the residence of Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a former finance minister and current frontrunner in the election scheduled for April 5. Initial reports of Tuesday's attack suggested that Ghani's house was the target, though the gunmen had actually stormed the IEC, where more than 70 people were preparing for the upcoming election.
Two suicide bombers detonated themselves at the entrance, killing two police officers who were standing guard. Three militants rushed inside. A standoff with police ensued for the next four hours, leaving an election worker and a provincial council candidate dead.
This video shows the aftermath of the Taliban's attack on the IEC office in Kabul.
At least six others, including two police officers, were wounded. The remaining three attackers were killed.
Ghani, who was at a campaign rally in the eastern province of Paktia at the time of the attack, issued a statement via Twitter.
The assault came shortly after Afghan President Hamid Karzai left the parliament building, where the lower house had approved Yunus Qanuni's nomination to replace the recently deceased vice president, Mohammad Qasim Fahim, who died of diabetes-related complications two weeks ago.
Earlier Tuesday morning, three insurgents stormed a branch of the government-owned New Kabul Bank in Asadabad, the capital of Kunar province. The insurgents, outfitted with suicide vests, killed four police officers and a civilian, and wounded sixteen people.
In the northern city of Kunduz, a suicide bomber attacked a crowd of people watching a game of buzkashi, which is basically a version of polo played with a goat carcass in lieu of a ball. The blast killed five people and wounded at least 20. Police suggested the target had been a prominent local supporter of Abdullah Abdullah, another leading presidential candidate.
Abdullah had been a close ally of Ahmad Shah Massood, who led the Northern Alliance's armed resistance of the Taliban until his assassination on September 9, 2001. His presidential campaign has been the target of several recent attacks.
With 11 days left until the election, the Afghan National Security Forces are attempting to secure the country. The ANSF has deployed some 7,000 troops to the country's north in preparation for the election, while security officials have increased security measures in Kabul.
The security clampdown has forced the closing of bars and restaurants that cater to foreigners. On Sunday, patrons at a popular hookah bar in Kabul were told that they weren't permitted in the establishment if a foreigner was among their party.