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Wednesday, October 06, 2004

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Explosion 'targets Karzai's ally'

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Explosion 'targets Karzai's ally'
Explosion 'targets Karzai's ally'
An explosion in the north-eastern Afghan city of Feyzabad was aimed at President Hamid Karzai's running mate, Afghan officials say.
At least one person died in the explosion. However, Mr Karzai's vice-presidential candidate, Ahmed Zia Massood, was not injured.

The incident came as Mr Karzai held his final rally in the capital, Kabul.

The poll on Saturday will be Afghanistan's first election for head of state.

Taleban vow

No one has claimed responsibility for the latest attack although the Taleban and al-Qaeda have vowed to disrupt the presidential elections.

The BBC's Crispin Thorold in Kabul says the province of Badakhshan, where the blast took place, is not an area where there has been much militant activity.

There is some confusion over the details of the attack.

Some reports said Mr Massood was travelling from the airport to a rally site when his convoy was struck, possibly by a mine or roadside bomb.

But interior ministry spokesman, Lutfullah Mashal said it took place at the rally itself in Feyzabad, the capital of Badakhshan, 300km north-east of Kabul.

He said there had so far been no arrests.

"The investigation is going on. It is the work of the enemies of peace and the elements who want to derail the election process," Mr Mashal said.

Mutaleb Beg, a local police official, told the Associated Press agency four people were hurt in the blast.

Reports said the former governor of the province, Sayed Ikramuddin, was one of those hurt.

Mr Massood is the brother of the late Ahmed Shah Massood, who led the battle against Soviet occupation.

Ahmed Zia Massood's running partner, President Hamid Karzai, held his final rally on Wednesday in front of thousands of supporters in Kabul's sports stadium.

Mr Karzai told them: "By voting you are laying the first bricks in a wall of democracy that will last for decades and centuries."

The Kabul rally was only the second public meeting Mr Karzai has held.

The first was on Tuesday when he flew by helicopter to Ghazni, 100km south of Kabul, to speak to about 10,000 people.

Festive atmosphere

Under Afghan electoral law, campaigning ends on Wednesday.

After three decades of war, interference, bloodshed and destruction... we proved that we are a noble nation
Hamid Karzai

Around 6,000 people packed into Kabul's stadium - which was notorious under the Taleban regime for public executions.

Our correspondent, at the rally, says there was a festive atmosphere with men performing the national dance to the accompaniment of drums.

Supporters held banners saying "a vote for Hamid Karzai is a vote for democracy".

Mr Karzai said Afghans should cast their ballots freely, without pressure from anyone, including his own officials.

"We have 18 candidates and it is a source of pride that after three decades of war, interference, bloodshed and destruction... we proved that we are a noble nation."

Mr Karzai's rally was followed at the same venue later in the day by one for Uzbek General Abdul Rashid Dostum.

He told a crowd of around 1,000: "Firstly I tell you that we will win. If not, the future government without us would have no legitimacy."

Our correspondent says the campaign is drawing to a close just hours after it sprang into life.

For nearly four weeks the candidates' posters, pasted to walls across the country, were the only sign that a democratic ballot was imminent.

Although the other leading contenders, including the former education minister, Yunis Qanuni, and the Uzbek regional leader, Abdul Rashid Dostum, have been more active, this is an election that is likely to be won behind closed doors, our correspondent says.

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