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Taliban abduct provincial candidate in Afghanistan

Monday - 3/31/2014, 7:57am  ET

Supporters of Afghanistan's presidential candidate and former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul, listen to his speech during a campaign rally in Herat, Afghanistan, Sunday, March 30, 2014. The poster shows a photo of Zalmai Rassoul, center, and two brothers of Afghan president Hamid Karzai's photos. Eight Afghan presidential candidates are campaigning for the third presidential election. Elections will take place on April 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Taliban gunmen abducted a candidate running for a seat in a provincial council in northern Afghanistan and seven members of his entourage, officials said Monday.

Insurgent attacks elsewhere in the country killed 18 people, part of a spike in violence in the weeks leading up to Saturday's election. Afghans will go to the polls to choose a new president to replace Hamid Karzai and also elect members for its provincial councils.

The Taliban have vowed to use force to disrupt the vote, and last week barraged the election commission headquarters in Kabul with machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

Candidate Hussain Nazari and seven others were taken overnight as they were travelling in a taxi to Sar-i-Pul, capital of the province of the same name. They had no security escort with them, according to Governor Abdul Jabar Haqbeen.

The governor said elders in the area were trying to negotiate with the Taliban to get Nazari and the others released.

In eastern Logar province a suicide bomber detonated his vest when police spotted him. One policeman was killed in the incident and another three policemen were wounded, said Din Mohammed Darwesh, spokesman for the provincial governor of Logar.

In northern Sar-i-Pul four policemen died on Monday when their vehicle hit a roadside mine also in northern Sar-i-Pul. Police said it was unrelated to the abduction of the candidate for council member. In that incident another three policemen were wounded.

Still in northern Afghanistan, but in Kunduz province, a roadside bomb killed eight family members of a local anti-Taliban commander, said District Chief, Hayatullah Amiri.

Mohammed Omar was not in vehicle at the time. Among the dead were his two sons and a brother, said Amiri.

Omar was not immediately available for comment and so far Taliban have not taken responsibility for the attack.

A second roadside bomb in northern Kunduz province killed a senior police official, Islam Hussain. He was alone in his vehicle at the time of the explosion, Amiri told The Associated Press.

In eastern Paktia province, four civilians, including a 12-year-old boy, were killed when their motorcycle hit a roadside bomb on Monday. The incident occurred near Gardez city, the capital of Paktia province.

Roadside bombs and mines are among the deadliest weapons in the Taliban's arsenal. Taliban routinely plant explosives that are usually aimed at military convoys but regularly kill civilians.

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