Deadly violence marred the start of Afghanistan’s election season on Sunday.

Nine people were killed and about two dozen others wounded in an attack targeting the Kabul office of President Ashraf Ghani’s running mate, Amrullah Saleh.

The violence came on the first day of campaigning for the upcoming presidential elections, serving as a grim reminder of Afghanistan’s woeful security situation and the sort of mayhem and murder that have beset previous polls.

The attack began around 4:40 pm when a huge blast struck near the Green Trend office, a youth- and reform-focused civil society organization Saleh heads. He escaped without serious injury, his office said.

The attack lasted about six hours and ended with all attackers killed, according to the Interior Ministry. No group immediately claimed responsibility.

Ghani’s peace minister, Abdul Salam Rahimi, gave the toll of nine – up from two dead initially – and said 25 people were wounded.

Earlier on Sunday, a buoyant Ghani kicked off his campaign by insisting “peace is coming,” after nearly 18 years of conflict, and that pivotal talks with the Islamist extremist Taliban would take place.

– Agence France-Presse