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Days after Afghans cast their ballot for the president for only the second time in the nation's history, a massive bomb detonated in Kandahar, the largest city in the south. Although Afghans saw a number of bombings in the lead-up to last week's election, this blast was the largest, killing at least 43 people and injuring at least 65.
The blast occurred on Tuesday night hours after the Afghan election commission announced preliminary vote tallies. The Taliban had urged citizens to boycott the election. As the nation awaits the final election results, the violence in Kandahar underscores the deteriorating security situation that the incoming president must address.
While the Taliban have denied responsibility for the attack, The New York Times reports that "it bore the hallmarks of the Taliban." Kandahar has long been a power base for the Taliban, which has been battling the Western-backed government there since the American invasion in 2001. The Taliban "have been carrying out attacks of increasing complexity and brutality in southern Afghanistan, targeting Afghan and international forces and those allied with them," wrote The New York Times.
No other group has claimed responsibility for the attack, and an interior ministry spokesman also pointed to Taliban-linked insurgents as the likely perpetrators. Meanwhile, President Karzai has ordered his security chiefs to launch an in-depth investigation of the attacks, reports Germany's Deutsche Welle.
"The people gathered outside where the police set up their cordon ... said they do not think the Taliban was behind this attack. They are pointing their fingers at the Americans and the Pakistanis.
"The people here are angry and shocked, they are used to bombings but not on this scale."
Afghan officials say the bomb appears to have targeted several foreign companies and aid agencies in the area. The only victims, however, were local civilians, reports The Globe and Mail. The blast destroyed houses nearly a half-mile away, and several women and children were among the dead.
"It was either a tanker or a truck bomb and the target was a Japanese construction company," said Wali Karzai, head of Kandahar's provincial council and the half-brother of the Afghan President.
A water engineer for the International Committee of the Red Cross was among those killed in the blast. ICRC has been working to treat victims from the blast and condemned those who carried it out. In a press release, the group emphasized that "as a matter of basic humanity" civilians must be protected during a conflict. "Last night's blast is yet another indication of the suffering that civilians all over Afghanistan have to endure," ICRC officials wrote.