23 Afghan militants killed as suicide vests explode

Kabul, April 1: At least 23 militants were killed and nine others injured Tuesday in two separate incidents in Afghanistan — both involving accidental explosions of suicide vests, police said.

“Several Taliban leaders were instructing a group of militants about building suicide jackets and targeting security forces in a house in Gelan district of eastern Ghazni province. One suicide vest went off accidentally, killing 16 Taliban militants and injuring nine others,” provincial police chief Zorawar Zahid told Xinhua.

Earlier Tuesday, Afghan intelligence agency said in a statement that six Taliban commanders and a would-be suicide bomber were killed when a suicide jacket went off prematurely in Shash Qala area of Charkh district of Logar province.

In a similar incident Monday, five militants were killed when a car bomb they were making exploded in the western province of Farah.

Police spokesman Abdul Khalil Asir said the police had found and seized more than 2,000 kg of explosive materials in Taluqan city, capital of the northern Takhar province Tuesday.

“The militants planned to use the explosives to destabilise the province during the elections,” he said.

The militants have intensified attacks recently as the country is preparing for the third presidential and provincial councils elections slated for April 5.

Campaigning by Afghan presidential candidates officially started Feb 2 and will close April 2 or 48 hours before the election day.

The number of presidential candidates has dropped to eight after the withdrawal of three contenders from the race, and that of those for the council seats in 34 provinces across the country stands at more than 2,500.

The security forces have been put on high alert in big cities for the elections.