A suicide bomber killed an influential cousin of Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday, officials said, raising tensions during a dispute over election results that will determine the country’s new leader as United States-led troops withdraw.
Hashmat Karzai was a campaign manager in the southern province of Kandahar for Ashraf Ghani, one of the two Afghan presidential candidates involved in a stand-off that threatens to trigger worsening ethnic instability.
Kandahar Governor’s Spokesman Dawa Khan Minapal reportedly said, “A suicide bomber disguised as a guest came to Hashmat’s house in Kandahar to greet him and blew himself up after he hugged Hashmat.” No other casualties were reported.
Hashma first worked in the presidential election campaign for Qayyum Karzai, the president’s brother, and later lend support to Ghani when Qayyum withdrew from the race.
Ghani’s campaign team said via Twitter that it was in “immense shock” over the death of Hashmat.
Ghani and a former anti-Taliban resistance fighter Abdullah Abdullah are at loggerheads over the second-round of Afghan elections, which has been mired in fraud allegations.
Ghani won the vote according to preliminary results, but an audit of the ballots has started after Abdullah refused to accept defeat due to claims of “industrial-scale” ballot-box stuffing.
With the audit beset by another outbreak of complaints from both sides, many fear the country is at risk of returning to the ethnic violence of the 1992-1996 civil war.
Explosives hidden in turbans have been used previously been used in Afghanistan, including in an attack in Kabul in 2011 that killed former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani.