KABUL — A prominent Afghan candidate for parliament was killed in an explosion Wednesday, the latest victim of insurgent attacks aimed at disrupting Saturday’s elections.
Asserting responsibility, a spokesman for the Taliban said the group killed a “renowned communist general” in a “tactical blast” in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of southern Helmand province, where Qahraman was campaigning for a seat in the national legislature.
Omar Zwak, a spokesman for Helmand’s governor, said Qahraman was killed by explosives that were placed beneath a sofa he was sitting on in the yard of his campaign office as he was meeting with supporters. At least three other people were reported killed and seven wounded in the blast.
Qahraman served as an army general during the occupation of Afghanistan by the former Soviet Union. In recent years, he served as an envoy for President Ashraf Ghani, leading the battle against the Taliban insurgents in Helmand.
He was an outspoken critic of Pakistan and U.S.-led policies in Afghanistan and was part of a group of former communists trying to revive the a leftist party that disintegrated during the civil war.
The burly former general was known as a hero to his supporters but was regarded as a brutal commander by his critics.
In a statement, Ghani condemned the attack and called Qahraman as a true patriot, adding that his assassination would not weaken the will of Afghans to vote on Saturday.
Last week, another candidate was among more than a dozen people killed in a suicide attack in Helmand. Eight other candidates and scores of other people have died in recent weeks in separate election-related assaults.
Taliban guerrillas have threatened to disrupt the election, urging people to avoid polling places and calling the vote a sham that will promote further U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.
The Afghan government has given several days of leave for schools that will be used as voting stations. In its latest warning Wednesday, the Taliban ordered Afghans not to allow the use of schools and universities as polling centers.
The elections have been delayed for more than four years. Security threats and fraud are among the key concerns for the balloting, which comes six months ahead of a scheduled presidential election.