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Elections in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province to be delayed a week

Afghan Brig. Gen. Abdul Raziq, left, Kandahar provincial chief of police, shakes hands with Afghan Uniform Police instructors at the Kandahar Regional Training Center in southern Afghanistan, Jun. 7, 2012. Raziq attended an Afghan Uniform Police noncommissioned officer and literacy course graduation ceremony held at the training center. One-hundred thirty-eight patrolmen became NCOs after completing the 14-week training course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Renee Crisostomo/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Parliamentary elections in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, due to be held on October 20, will be delayed by one week following the assassination of the powerful provincial police commander, Haroon Chakhansori, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, has tweeted on his official account.

“In accordance with Article 104 of the Electoral Law, the Security Council accepted [the commission’s proposal] and the [parliamentary] elections in Kandahar Province have been delayed only for one week,” Independent Election Commission spokesman Hafizullah Hashimi told RFE/RL.

Hashimi said the decision to delay the vote had been made because the people of Kandahar Province were “morally not ready to vote” following the death of General Abdul Raziq, who was killed by a rogue bodyguard of another top official on October 17. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Unfortunately, Afghanistan lost its sons yesterday [in Kandahar] and it is possible that holding elections will create challenges in Kandahar. So, the Election Commission decided to propose the postponement of the election,” commission member Wasima Badghisi told RFE/RL.

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Raziq’s killing was a major blow to the Western-backed government in Kabul.

The Taliban claimed responsibility in a statement, saying, “The brutal police chief of Kandahar has been killed along with several other officials.”

Afghan officials told RFE/RL that a bodyguard opened fire after a high-level security meeting in the governor’s compound.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Scott Miller, was present at the gathering but was unhurt, NATO spokesman Grant Neely said.

Besides Raziq — one of Afghanistan’s most powerful commanders, with a fearsome reputation as an enemy of the Taliban — the provincial intelligence head, Abdul Momin Hassankhail, was also killed.

An Afghan journalist working for state media also died in the attack, according to NAI, a group supporting open media in the country.

A close ally of the U.S. military, Raziq has been credited with pacifying large swaths of Kandahar but has been accused by human rights groups of gross human rights violations, including forcible disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial killings.

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Around 14,000 U.S. troops are currently in Afghanistan, and Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner told the Reuters news agency that the attack in Kandahar “will not change U.S. resolve in our South Asia strategy, if anything it makes us more resolute.”

Afghanistan remains on high alert ahead of the long-delayed parliamentary elections on October 20, after the Taliban pledged to block the vote.

More than 2,500 candidates are competing for 249 seats in the lower house of parliament.

The run-up to the elections has been marred by deadly militant attacks and targeted killings of candidates, 10 of whom have been killed so far.