Armed men on a motorbike have shot a senior election official in northern Afghanistan, raising fears that the presidential election due in April next year will lead to a surge in violence.
Amanullah Aman, head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) in Kunduz province, was killed by unknown assailants outside his home on Wednesday in Kunduz city.
He was the first election official killed since candidate nominations opened on Monday.
All potential contestants in the wide-open race to succeed President Hamid Karzai must declare themselves by October 6.
"Aman was shot dead in the morning in front of his house as he was leaving for his office," Enayatullah Khaliq, Kunduz provincial spokesman, told AFP news agency.
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"Two men on motorcycles opened fire on his car and severely wounded him, he later died in the hospital."
Al Jazeera's Jane Ferguson, reporting from Kabul, said Aman was integral to Afghanistan's elections.
"He himself had the most important work to do at this time," she said.
"He was somewhat of a veteran in Afghanistan's fledgling democracy. His shooting sends a very strong message to anyone involved in the elections."
Our correspondent said the Taliban had confirmed to Al Jazeera that anyone involved in the election process would be targeted.
"President Hamid Karzai said [on Tuesday] that having no elections at all would be more dangerous for Afghanistan," she said.
Ebadullah Talwar, Kunduz deputy police chief, confirmed the death, adding that Aman was murdered while he was going grocery shopping without any bodyguards.
Kunduz is in the more peaceful north of Afghanistan, but it is a hotbed of Taliban activity.
The province, which borders Tajikistan, is also a major route for drug trafficking and has a volatile mix of rival ethnic tribes and armed groups.
Taliban fighters, who are opposed to the elections, have often targeted government officials across the country.