KABUL, Afghanistan – A suicide bomber riding a rickshaw blew himself up outside a checkpoint at a market in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing at least 13 civilians, officials said, in the latest attack in the countdown to presidential elections to be held in less than three weeks.
Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in the capital of Faryab province, but it happened in an area where the Taliban and allied militant groups are active. The Taliban have threatened a campaign of violence to disrupt the April 5 vote, which will choose a new president to lead the country as foreign troops prepare to end their combat mission by the end of the year.
The attacker was approaching the checkpoint at the entry of the market in Maymana, the capital of Faryab province, when he detonated his explosives, which were hidden in the rickshaw, the officials said.
Provincial Gov. Mohammadullah Patash gave the death toll and said 23 people also were wounded in the attack.
The Taliban have staged numerous attacks in Faryab, far from their traditional strongholds in southern and eastern Afghanistan. In October 2012, a suicide bomber struck a mosque packed with senior regional officials in Maymana, killing 41 people.
Afghan civilians are frequently caught up in the violence as insurgents battle Afghan and international troops in an effort to undermine the Western-backed government. The United Nations said 2,959 civilians were killed and 5,656 wounded last year, a 14 percent increase from the previous year.
The Taliban deny that they target civilians, but the U.N. report blamed 74 percent of all civilian casualties last year on insurgents.