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16 die in suicide blast in Afghanistan

KABUL — A suicide bomber in northern Afghanistan killed at least 16 people and wounded dozens more by detonating a rickshaw filled with explosives in a bazaar Tuesday morning, the latest major attack in the lead-up to presidential elections early next month.

The intended target of the attack, which occurred in Maimana, the capital of Faryab province, was unclear, and by afternoon the Taliban had not claimed responsibility for it.

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“The target of the attacker was obviously innocent civilians,” said Abdul Satar Barez, deputy provincial governor of Faryab.

Other officials suggested that the bombing was meant to sow fear before the elections, to discourage people from voting or gathering for campaign rallies.

“We believe today’s bombing was part of efforts to scare people,” said Naqibullah Fayeq, a member of parliament from Faryab. “Today’s attack had only election motives.”

Toryali Abdeyali, Faryab’s police chief, said there were early indications that the nearby provincial police headquarters was the intended target.

Abdeyali said 16 people were killed, not including the bomber.

Ahead of the elections, which are scheduled for April 5, Afghan security forces have been taking pains to coordinate security and ensure that polling stations across the country can remain open for the vote.

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