Afghanistan political crisis worsened on Monday as the country’s two rival leaders swore themselves in as president at simultaneous ceremonies that were interrupted by at least two blasts.
AFP reports that the bitter feud between President Ashraf Ghani and his former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah has raised fears for Afghanistan’s fragile democracy as the US prepares to leave the country following an agreement last month with a strong and largely unified Taliban.
Polls were held in September, but repeated delays and accusations of voter fraud meant that Ghani, the incumbent president, was only declared as the winner of the second term in February — sparking a furious response from Abdullah, who vowed to form his own parallel government.
On Monday Ghani, dressed in traditional Afghan clothing and white turban, arrived at the presidential palace to be sworn in, surrounded by supporters, senior political figures, diplomats and foreign dignitaries including US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
Minutes later, in another corner of the sprawling presidential palace compound, a suit-clad Abdullah inaugurated himself as president, vowing to “safeguard the independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity” of Afghanistan.
As hundreds of people watched Ghani’s ceremony, two loud explosions were heard, prompting some people to flee.
There were no reports of casualties from the blasts, which mirrored a similar incident in August 2018 when militants fired several mortars as Ghani was making a speech at the palace, injuring six civilians.