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Violence rocks Afghanistan on polling day

Last updated on: August 20, 2009 

Violence rocks Afghanistan polls

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Low voter turnout marked the general elections in Afghanistan on Thursday, as the war-ravaged country voted to choose their next president for the second time since 2001, after the Taliban was ousted from the country.

Violence rocked the elections in spite of stringent security measures by the police and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's forces. Some polling booths were forced to close down due to the violence, including bomb attacks, by militants.

The country has witnessed violent blasts and suicide attacks in the last few days, and the Taliban have repeatedly warned Afghans against voting.


Image: Afghan men wait in line to vote in a polling station during the presidential election in Kabul
Photographs: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters
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Militants attack polling booths

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There were reports about a rocket attack at Helmand and a blast at a polling booth in Kabul. The capital also reportedly witnessed a gunfight between the police and armed militants.

Militants attacked polling booths in northern Baghlan province, and the police chief and several policemen of Old Baghlan city were killed in clashes with Taliban ultras.


Image: Women wait in line to vote in the Afghan election in Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan
Photographs: Caren Firouz/Reuters
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Karzai vs Abdullah

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In Helmand's capital Lashkar Gah, a child was reportedly killed in a rocket attack.

The voter turnout in the south, a stronghold of President Hamid Karzai, remained low compared to the turnout in north, considered the bastion of presidential candidate and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah.


Image: Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah shows his inked finger as he prepares to cast his vote in Kabul
Photographs: Jonathan Burch/Reuters
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Taliban threatened the voters

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The international community had predicted that elections in Afghanistan would be violent, but emphasised that the democratic exercise was imperative to inject stability in the country, which has been embroiled in war for over three decades.

Taliban militants had warned that Afghans who cast their votes would be 'punished', and their threats affected the voter turnout.


Image: An Afghan policeman searches a local villager in front of the polling station in the village of Mangwal in Kunar province
Photographs: Oleg Popov/Reuters
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'Afghanistan will be more secure, more peaceful'

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In Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, which is the birth place of the Taliban, the voter turnout was reportedly a dismal 40 per cent lower than the 2004 presidential polls.

Karzai, who is the strongest contender in the presidential polls, cast his vote at 7 am at a Kabul school. "I request that the Afghan people come out and vote, so that through their ballot, Afghanistan will be more secure, more peaceful," the AFP quoted Karzai as saying.


Image: Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai casts his vote in Kabul
Photographs: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
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'This is a comedy'

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There are 36 official candidates in the fray, and the winning candidate needs more than 50 per cent of the total votes polled. In the absence of a clear mandate, run-off elections will have to be held in October.

Preliminary results of the elections were expected to be announced in Kabul on Saturday.

Presidential candidate Ramazan Bashardost alleged irregularities in the poll process and stated "This is not an election, this is a comedy".


Image: Men queue up to vote in the presidential election at a polling station in Kabul
Photographs: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
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