Afghan President’s peaceful remarks about elections raise violence

Afghan President Hamid Karzai voiced optimism Sunday that legislative elections next month would be peaceful, but violence linked to the race left one candidate dead and three US soldiers wounded.

Karzai's comments followed a major offensive by US-led forces and Afghan troops against militants who, US officials said, were intent on subverting the Sept. 18 polls. The operation has left hundreds of suspected rebels dead.

"We are very sure the election will take place peacefully," Karzai said. "There will be threats . . . but that would not deter the Afghan people from participating. We will soon have a parliament."

But other Afghan officials, as well as US authorities, have warned that the violence may increase ahead of the elections, the next key step toward democracy after a quarter century of fighting.

US military commanders have prepared elaborate security plans to safeguard the voting.

In the latest violence, militants attacked a US military convoy on Friday, 25 miles east of Kabul. Three soldiers were wounded, a US military statement said. An attack helicopter rushed to the site, but the rebels had fled.

The wounded were in stable condition after being evacuated to Bagram, the main US base in Afghanistan, about an hour's drive north of Kabul, it said.

Attacks on the US military so close to Kabul are rare; and Friday's assault occurred less than a week after a roadside bomb in the capital exploded near a convoy of US Embassy vehicles, wounding two American staff members.

In southern Uruzgan Province Sunday, gunmen ambushed a parliamentary candidate, Adiq Ullah, as he was driving, killing him and wounding two others in his vehicle, said the provincial governor, Mohammed Khan.

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