6 Afghan police killed in well-fortified area

Violence intensifies as Taliban aim to disrupt elections

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KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bombing killed six policemen at the Afghan Interior Ministry compound in one of the capital’s most heavily fortified areas Wednesday, part of a recent escalation in violence in the heart of Kabul.

The bloodshed is threatening to scare voters away from the polls as Afghans worry security forces unable to guard areas previously considered safe won’t be able to protect them on election day. The Taliban have launched a campaign of violence to disrupt Saturday’s vote for a new president and provincial councils.

Many voters have defiantly said they would go to the polls despite the violence, but Wednesday’s attack was a last straw for some.

Mohammad Ramin, an 18-year-old who has a photo store near the site of the blast, said he registered to vote for the first time last week but was too scared to go to the polls now.

“I am so disappointed, but I am not going to vote on election day because of the bad security,” he said. “I don’t want anybody in my family to go either.”

The bomber, wearing a military uniform, passed through several checkpoints to reach the ministry gate before detonating his explosives in the midst of other uniformed men entering the compound, according to the Interior Ministry, which oversees the Afghan police.

Within minutes of the blast, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack. It came soon after he issued an emailed statement to the media warning of more violence ahead of the elections.

The Interior Ministry has the lead in protecting the polling stations on Saturday, when voters will choose a new president in the first democratic transfer of power since Hamid Karzai was selected for the job after the 2001 U.S.-led ouster of the Taliban. Karzai is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

Many Afghans have expressed defiance, saying they will exercise their right to vote despite a series of election-related attacks.

The militants have also increasingly been targeting Westerners. In recent weeks, the Taliban also have claimed responsibility for attacks against a luxury hotel, a foreign guest house, a Swedish journalist and a Lebanese restaurant popular with foreigners.