An explosion has hit an election rally in Afghanistan‘s northeastern Takhar province killing at least 13 people and wounding dozens, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Official casualty figures are still awaited.

A police spokesman told the Reuters news agency on Saturday that explosives were placed in a motorcycle near the rally for Nazifa Yousufi Bek, the candidate for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

She had not arrived at the rally when the explosion occurred.

Authorities said there was no claim of responsibility yet, but the Taliban said in advance of the elections that it would target “people who are trying to help in holding this process successfully by providing security”. 

Takhar province in northeastern Afghanistan, which borders Tajikistan, has seen continued Taliban activity over the last years.

Attacks on election rallies

Afghanistan’s parliamentary election is slated for October 20, with 2,565 candidates vying for seats in the 249-member chamber, including 417 female candidates.

However, since official campaigning began three attacks, including Saturday’s blast, have taken place on election rallies, killing over 30 people in total.

On October 2, an attack on a rally in the eastern province of Nangarhar killed 13 people and wounded more than 40.

Saturday’s blast comes days after a suicide bomber struck an election meeting in Helmand province, killing at least eight people, including candidate Saleh Mohammad Achekzai.

At least five people have been murdered in targeted killings so far, according to the Independent Election Commission.

Preparations for the ballot, which is more than three years late, have been in turmoil for months and there has been speculation about whether the vote would go forwards.

Bureaucratic inefficiency, allegations of fraud and an 11th-hour pledge for biometric verification of voters threaten to derail the process and any hope of a credible result.

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