Mattis says too soon to say if Afghan attack will affect ballot

Violence has escalated in Afghanistan as the country prepares for parliamentary elections

Violence has escalated in Afghanistan as the country prepares for parliamentary elections

A top Afghan security commander, Kandahar police chief Gen Abdul Raziq, has been shot dead by a bodyguard.

The gunman killed the powerful Kandahar police chief and at least one other senior Afghan official but missed the top USA commander in the country, Gen. Scott Miller.

In a Twitter post, the Taliban said Miller and Raziq were the targets of the shooting that occurred as they were leaving a security meeting ahead of the country's parliamentary election on Saturday.

At least two hand grenade explosions and sporadic gunfire from around the compound were also reported by officials.

Kandahar Governor Zalmay Wesa was also severely wounded on Thursday and contradictory reports whether he survived could not be confirmed early on Friday.

"I very much regret to say that several high level officials have been killed", announced Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Late Wednesday, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation convoy was attacked near the Afghan capital, killing two civilians and injuring five Czech troops, Afghan officials and the Czech military said Thursday. Two Americans were wounded in the cross-fire and they have been medically evacuated. Taliban spokesman Zabihulla Mujahid said over social media that an "infiltrator" opened fire inside the governor's house during a meeting.

Mr. Mattis said he had yet spoken to Gen. Miller and could not confirm the Taliban's claim of responsibility.

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North Atlantic Treaty Organisation spokesman Colonel Knut Peters said General Miller, who took command of United States and forces and the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan last month, was uninjured but two Americans were wounded in the crossfire.

"At Kandahar palace today: Afghan-on-Afghan incident, as initial reports indicate".

"We need to find who's done this", Mattis told reporters traveling with him in the southeast Asian city-state of Singapore. The governor and the local head of the NDS intelligence service were wounded. Mattis said it's unclear how the attack will affect voter turnout in Saturday's parliamentary elections.

This is one of the most important security incidents of the past 17 years - in which almost the entire leadership of a province has been eliminated.

AFP adds: Five Czech soldiers have been injured in an apparent suicide attack on a military convoy in Afghanistan only two months after three others were killed, the Czech Defence Ministry said on Thursday.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility. Soon after, Abdul Raziq and his family fled to Pakistan until the Taliban was ousted in the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

He had survived several attempts to kill him, including one a year ago that resulted in the death of five diplomats from the United Arab Emirates.

Jabar Qahraman, an election candidate in the southern province in Afghanistan, was killed in his campaign office on Wednesday after explosives kept under his sofa blew up.

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