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News

Gunmen kill Kunduz electoral head

Police in northern Afghanistan say a leading electoral commission official has died after being shot by gunmen riding a motorcycle in Kunduz city. Registrations opened this week for national elections due next April.

Gunmen shot the head of the electoral commission in northern Afghanistan's Kunduz city on Wednesday. Police said Amanullah Aman died hours later in hospital.

Police spokesman Ebadullah Talwar said Aman, who was shot in front of his house, had declined bodyguard protection.

"Mr. Aman had been going everywhere without bodyguards, despite our frequent suggestions to assign bodyguards for him," Talwar told the German DPA news agency.

Polls due in April

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Taliban insurgents have previously threatened, or targeted, electoral officials and candidates and urged citizens not to participate in "phony elections."

The April 5 elections for Afghanistan's presidency and provincial council seats are widely considered a key test of civil society initiatives.

The registration of candidates had opened on Monday.

Withdrawal under way

US-led foreign forces stationed in Afghanistan since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001 are due to finish withdrawing next year.

Germany has plans to withdraw its 4,300 troops stationed in northern Afghanistan, mainly in Kunduz and Mazar-e Sharif, by next year, leaving only a contingent of trainers to mentor Afghan security personnel.

In May, Chancellor Angela Merkel visited a memorial in Kunduz to the 53 German soldiers killed while deployed.

ipj/mz (dpa, AP)