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Death toll from attack on Afghan Presidential candidate’s office rises to 20  

KABUL: The death toll from the suicide attack on Kabul office of Amrullah Saleh, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s running mate in September elections, reached 20 with at least 50 wounded.

Following the suicide attack, a cleanup operation has been launched.

Saleh is a former intelligence chief and security adviser who is running for vice president with Ghani. Saleh was slightly injured in the Sunday’s attack on the office of his Green Trends party in central Kabul.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, which came at the start of official campaigning for presidential elections scheduled for Sept. 28.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad condemned Sunday’s attack and said the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

“The attack on Amrullah Saleh’s political party offices was grotesque and a clear act of terrorism,” he said on Twitter.

The elections are likely to prove a severe organisational and security test for Ghani’s government, which came to power in 2014 following a bitterly fought campaign and a poll marred by accusations of widespread fraud.

Sunday’s attack added to an anxious mood in Kabul, where there is concern over chaotic election preparations and uncertainty about the future of U.S. military support for the Afghan government.

U.S. diplomats have been talking with the Taliban for months to agree a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces in exchange for security guarantees. The talks are expected to resume early next month amid increasing expectations that the two sides are close to an agreement.