KABUL — Insurgents attacked the headquarters of Afghanistan’s election commission Saturday, the most recent in a series of Taliban assaults attempting to undermine next week’s presidential election.
Four would-be suicide bombers entered an empty building and fired toward the nearby election commission for several hours, according to Afghan officials. Employees took refuge in a safe room. U.N. officials, based in another compound, also took cover.
The assailants were unable to reach their target and were killed by Afghan security personnel. There were no other casualties, Afghan officials said, adding that the attackers were wearing burqas.
“Attackers succeeded in targeting only part of one of our warehouses, but all election materials are safe,” said Noor Mohammad Noor, the election commission’s spokesman.
The Kabul International Airport, which is near the site, was closed for several hours during the attack.
The Independent Election Commission is charged with administering the election and attempting to minimize fraud — no small task in Afghanistan.
The Afghan capital has come under a barrage of attacks in recent days, including several against Western targets. But it remains to be seen whether the Taliban is accomplishing its goal of deterring Afghans from voting in next Saturday’s election. In a statement this month, the Taliban ordered militants to “use all force” to disrupt voting.
The statement called the election “an American conspiracy.”
A peaceful transition of power, which would be a first in Afghanistan, is seen by Afghans and Western officials as a critical foundation for the country’s future. But many worry that Afghanistan’s nascent institutions could fracture if violence prevents people from voting or if there is widespread fraud.
After the attack, young Afghans took to social media, posting photos of voter identification cards and declaring that they would not be deterred by the insurgency. But it remains unclear how the violence will affecting polling, particularly in provinces where the Taliban holds even greater sway.