Afghan presidential frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah escaped assassination on Friday morning when two charges detonated outside of a hotel. Six people are confirmed dead, and the blasts destroyed several cars in Abdullah’s convoy. Twenty-two bystanders were also injured. The blasts took place in the Kote Sangi area of western Kabul, next to the Ariana Hotel. Police spokesman Hasmat Stanekzai declared the attack was a suicide bombing, but so far no one has claimed responsibility for the attack specifically. The Taliban, however, has vowed to disrupt the elections by whatever means necessary.
This has been the most serious attempt on Abdullah’s life since the beginning of February, when he survived an assault on his convoy as he was traveling between Kabul and Jalalabad. The assassination attempt is troubling for obvious reasons, but also for the fact that according to Afghan law, the presidential race must restart from the beginning if one of the runoff candidates are killed, placing the country into an extremely difficult and tense situation just before an enormous drawdown of foreign troop presence.
Abdullah appeared in a press conference after the incident to display his safety and declared that Zalmai Rassoul was also accompanying him while they were on their way to attend another rally. As the runoff election will take place next week, violence might very well increase between now and then, with the other candidate Ashraf Ghani also vying for the presidential position. Ghani denounced the attack immediately on Twitter, condemning those responsible, though none have come forward as of Friday evening in Kabul.
Follow us on Twitter: @SteppeDispatch
- Kashmir Watch has published a report documenting the alleged 471 torture centers in India’s troubled region of Jammu and Kashmir. The report goes on to state that one out of every five Kashmiris has been a victim of torture at the hands of the Indian government, and that psychological torture has become a staple of tactics used by officials in order to extract information from perceived terrorists operating in a “separatist context” within Kashmir.
- Russia has passed a series of laws that seek to lessen the country’s dependency on tobacco. There are currently 44 million smokers in Russia, placing it behind China, India and Indonesia, and has been classified by the World Health Organization as “most risky” due to the economic and human toll that the country’s dependence on smoking represents annually. Measures recently implemented by the Russian government categorically ban smoking in all “bars, restaurants, trains and hotels.” Fines have been designated on the individual and business level for those that do not comply with the new laws.
- Chinese authorities in Xinjiang province expanded an already extensive wave of detentions, bringing in another 29 individuals on charges of “violent terrorism.” Detentions over the last few months now stand at 81, with nine of those individuals receiving death sentences in the last week. The charges levied against individuals arrested under China’s ambiguous terror laws include “inciting separatism, assembling to disturb social order, illegal business activities and inciting ethnic hatred.” Though violence in the region has increased, accusations have been made against Xinjiang’s PRC-blessed government of denying access to legal representation, torture and widespread oppression of the largely Muslim population inhabiting Xinjiang.
- A court in Tajikistan’s northwestern region of Sughd sentenced six Tajik activists to between 9 and 9.5 years in prison for their involvement in Islamist extremist group rose to prominence in 2010 after the group executed a suicide bombing in Khujand, Tajkistan and took part in skirmishes with the Tajik government in Karategin valley later that same year.