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Thursday 15 November 2018

Explosions reported in Afghan capital as election voting starts

More than 50,000 Afghan security forces have been deployed throughout the country to protect 21,000 polling stations.

A policeman casts his vote in parliamentary elections in Kabul, Afghanistan (Massoud Hossaini/AP)
A policeman casts his vote in parliamentary elections in Kabul, Afghanistan (Massoud Hossaini/AP)

By Rahim Faiez and Amir Shah, Associated Press

Two explosions were reported in Kabul hours after parliamentary election polls opened in Afghanistan.

Police spokesman Jan Agha said a “sticky bomb” placed under the vehicle of an intelligence official exploded in the Karte Se neighbourhood in the west of the capital.

There were no immediate reports of injuries but security officials are on high alert as both Islamic State and the Taliban have vowed to disrupt polling.

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Observers watch the voting process in parliamentary elections in Kabul (Massoud Hossaini/AP)

Earlier, a small explosion frightened voters queuing at a polling station in the Qarabagh neighbourhood, north of Kabul, to cast their ballot in the first parliamentary elections since 2010.

There were no injuries in the first act of violence to be reported since polls opened at 7am local time on Saturday.

More than 50,000 Afghan security forces have been deployed throughout the country to protect 21,000 polling stations.

The Taliban have warned of violence and told students and teachers to refuse to allow their schools to be used for voting.

Education Minister Mohammad Mirwais Balkhy said 5,500 schools throughout the country are being used for elections.

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Afghan men line up to outside a polling station in Kabul (Rahmat Gul/AP)

The Independent Election Commission said 8.8 million Afghans are registered to vote in Saturday’s election.

Wasima Badghisy, a commission member, called voters “very, very brave” and said a turnout of five million would be a success.

As voting began, polling workers struggled with a new biometric system and in several polling stations workers took an extraordinary amount of time to locate names on voter lists.

In some polling stations in the capital, voting started as much as an hour late, causing small disturbances by frustrated voters, some of whom had arrived to vote nearly two hours before polls opened.

The new biometric machines meant to curtail fraud were late additions to Afghanistan’s elections and had not been tested in the field nor had workers had more than a few weeks to learn the system.

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An election commission employee, left, uses a biometric device in Parliamentary elections in Kabul (Massoud Hossaini/AP)

Independent Election Commission chairman Abdul Batih Sayad warned ahead of polling that the system might experience glitches and asked for voters’ patience.

In the run-up to the elections, two candidates were killed while polling in Kandahar was delayed for a week after a rogue guard gunned down the powerful provincial police chief.

Commission deputy spokesman Aziz Ismaili said no results will be released before mid-November and final results will not be out until later in December.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani cast his vote as polls opened at 7am.

In a televised speech afterwards, he congratulated Afghans on another election and praised the security forces, particularly the air force, for getting ballots to Afghanistan’s remotest corners.

He also reminded those elected to Parliament that they are there to serve the people and ensure the rule of law.

Press Association

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