Afghan Candidate Wounded in Grenade Attack

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A candidate in this month's Afghan parliamentary elections has been wounded in a grenade attack amid growing political violence and insurgent attacks aimed at sabotaging the polls.

Abdul Rahman was wounded when the grenade exploded outside his office in the southern city of Ghazni, NATO and the deputy provincial police chief, Nawruz Ali Mahmoud Zada, said Friday.

He and another man wounded in the Thursday attack, a doctor and friend of Rahman, were hospitalized and later sent to a facility run by the international coalition, NATO said.
Mahmoud Zada said the grenade shattered windows in Abdul Rahman's campaign office and the attacker escaped, possibly by motorcycle.

He said no arrests had been made and it wasn't clear whether the attack was part of a Taliban insurgent campaign of murder and intimidation aimed at disrupting the Sept. 18 polls or the work of a rival candidate.

Political violence is on the rise ahead of the vote, with at least three candidates and five campaign workers killed already by unknown assailants.

Another candidate, Abdul Wahid Khorasani, was wounded and 10 of relatives working on his campaign killed on Thursday in what appeared to be a mistaken NATO airstrike.
NATO said it fired on a car in northern Takhar province's normally quiet Rustaq district, killing or wounding as many as 12 insurgents. Among the casualties were a Taliban commander and a local head of an allied insurgent group, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, responsible for ordering attacks in Kabul and elsewhere.

However, Khorasani, backed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and local politicians in Takhar, has said there were no insurgents riding in the convoy or even in the area -- reopening the highly sensitive issue of civilian deaths and their potentially undermining impact on the fight against the Taliban.

Khorasani suggested the attack may have been prompted by false information fed to the Americans by a political rival.

NATO has promised to launch a full investigation into the strike.

Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates toured U.S. bases Friday and met with troops battling it out with the Taliban in the critical southern province of Kandahar.

The province is the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban, and Kandahar city is Afghanistan's second largest. U.S. commanders have concentrated most of the additional 30,000 troops ordered to Afghanistan on Kandahar, but the region remains a battleground, still far from under full control of the U.S.-backed central government in Kabul.

Gates said he saw and heard evidence that the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy is taking hold in Kandahar.

"I come away from my visits down here today encouraged," Gates told reporters traveling with him. He said that signs of progress were incremental but growing.

Still, he added, "Everybody knows this is far from a done deal."