An Afghan official says Taliban gunmen have killed nine people, including a candidate running for a seat in the provincial council, who had been abducted in northern Afghanistan.
The governor of Sar-i-Pul province says authorities received intelligence that the candidate, Hussain Nazari, was slain by his abductors.
Nazari was seized by the Taliban three days ago while traveling to the provincial capital.
Gov. Abdul Jabar Haqbeen said on Wednesday that Nazari and eight other people were killed. No group has claimed responsibility.
Haqbeen says they recovered four bodies and one man who was wounded, while the five other bodies, including the candidate's, are in a remote area.
Haqbeen says authorities were told that Nazari and two others were beheaded, but that could not be confirmed until the bodies are retrieved.
Taliban leaders have warned Afghans against participating in elections on April 5 and ordered fighters to “use all force” possible to disrupt polling. The vote, which will usher in a successor to President Hamid Karzai, is seen as key to Afghanistan’s stability ahead of the final withdrawal of international troops later this year.
The election is seen as a major test of stability in the country as violence increases, and as President Karzai becomes increasingly vocal about his disdain for the U.S., refusing to sign a security agreement that would allow some U.S. forces to stay beyond their scheduled withdrawal in late December.
Since campaigning began in January, the Taliban have attacked candidates' convoys, campaign workers and killed one election commission official. Nine people were killed March 20 when the Taliban attacked the Serena Hotel in Kabul, considered one of the city's safest and nine senior employees of the hotel's contracted security company were detained and that the company had been negligent.
Days later, the Taliban launched a brazen assault with a suicide bomber detonating his vehicle outside an election office on the edge of Kabul while two other gunmen stormed into the building, trapping dozens of employees inside and killing four people.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press