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Rival Afghan presidential inaugurations marred by blasts

Last-minute talks were unable to produce an agreement between the rival leaders [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 March, 2020

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Afghanistan's political crisis deepened on Monday as political rivals Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah both swore themselves in as president.
Two blasts were heard as Afghanistan's two rival leaders held parallel presidential inaugurations in Kabul on Monday, underscoring the country's woeful security situation ahead of talks with a resurgent Taliban.

Hundreds of people had assembled at two venues inside the presidential palace complex to watch the swearing-in ceremonies for President Ashraf Ghani and challenger Abdullah Abdullah, when the blasts were heard, prompting some to flee.

"I have no bulletproof vest on, only my shirt, I will stay even if I have to sacrifice my head," Ghani told the remaining crowd, as sirens sounded overhead.

Ghani was declared as the winner of the election held last September, but Abdullah, who disputed the vote, held a parallel ceremony during which he vowed to "safeguard the independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity" of Afghanistan.

Last-minute talks reportedly extended late into the night on Sunday as the two sides sought to broker an agreement. 

But by Monday morning, there was little indication a solution had been found, with Ghani's spokesman only announcing that his inauguration would be delayed by several hours.

Read more: Post-presidential election and a peace plan: What is next for Afghanistan?

Washington had earlier warned that the bickering posed a risk to the US withdrawal deal, which requires the Taliban to hold talks with Kabul. 

Widening divisions among Afghan politicians would leave the insurgents with the upper hand in those negotiations.

The Taliban, who have slammed the electoral process as "a fake and foreign-run" affair, have in recent days ramped up attacks on Afghan forces and civilians. 

The insurgents' spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP the competing ceremonies showed that "nothing is more important to the slaves than their personal interests".

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