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Gunman kills Afghan provincial election official

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AMIR SHAH | September 18, 2013 08:55 AM EST | AP

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KABUL, Afghanistan — A gunman killed the head of a provincial election commission in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday, officials said.

The shooting came as Afghanistan's campaign season started this week, with authorities accepting candidate nominations for presidential and provincial elections next spring.

The man slain in Wednesday's attack, Amanullah Aman, is believed to be the highest-ranking election official to be killed in Afghanistan since the Taliban government was ousted in 2001. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai sharply condemned the attack, saying it would not undo the determination of the Afghan people to vote.

Aman was collecting rent from shopkeepers in a Kunduz city bazaar where he owns property when the gunman, riding by on a motorbike, shot him three times in the chest.

Hamidullah Daneshi, the deputy governor of Kunduz province, said Aman died later in the morning at a hospital. The province is in northern Afghanistan, a region that has seen growing insurgent activity.

In a phone call, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the militant group carried out the attack. The Taliban frequently target Afghan government officials in their bid to return to power since being toppled by U.S.-led forces.

"It's a big loss for us," Sareer Ahmad Barmak, a member of the national election commission, said of the killing.

The April 5 election is considered a key test for Afghanistan and its ability to maintain its democracy as the U.S.-led international coalition finishes withdrawing its troops next year.