Death toll in Kabul voter registration attack rises to 31

World
By Reuters

KABUL - The Death toll in Sunday's Kabul voter registration attack has risen to at least 31, according to the country's health ministry.

Police said a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a voter registration center in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday, killing at least 31 people and wounding dozens as they waited to receive identity cards, officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack on a project of key importance to the credibility of President Ashraf Ghani’s Western-backed government, which has pledged to hold parliamentary elections this year.

However, the Taliban’s main spokesman issued a statement on Twitter denying involvement.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danesh said a bomber on foot approached the center where officials had been issuing identity cards as part of a process of registering voters for the election scheduled for October.

A spokesman for the ministry of public health said at least 12 people were confirmed dead and 57 wounded. The explosion destroyed cars and shattered windows in nearby buildings, leaving rubble strewn across the street.

“There were women, children. Everyone had come to get their identity cards,” said Bashir Ahmad who had been nearby when the attack took place, after weeks of relative calm in the capital.

The blast took place in Dasht-e Barchi, an area of western Kabul inhabited by many members of the mainly Shi’ite Hazara minority, which has been repeatedly hit by attacks claimed by Islamic State.

Voter registration centers have been set up across Afghanistan ahead of long-delayed parliamentary and district council elections due to be held in October and there have been serious concerns that militants might attack them. 

President Ghani has been under heavy pressure from his international partners to ensure the elections are held this year, ahead of a presidential election due in 2019 although there has been widespread skepticism that they will take place.

Unless the process of registering millions of voters, many of whom do not have national identity cards, can be completed before winter sets, the vote would almost certainly have to be postponed until next year.