Afghans vote in presidential election, dare Taliban threats
KABUL, April 5 (Xinhua/Sun) -- The war-weary Afghans on Saturday went to vote in the presidential election despite Taliban threats and a string of attacks.
The Afghans began voting earlier on Saturday to elect a new president for the next five years,in the first transfer of power through polling in the country's history.
Incumbent President Hamid Karzai, who is constitutionally barred from running for a third consecutive five-year term, urged all Afghan voters to take part in the election process. "Despite raining, despite enemies' threats, I urge all Afghans to vote for their ideal candidate without any fears. I urged all voters to visit the polling centers and elect their new leadership, " the outgoing president said after casting his vote earlier in the day.
The Taliban insurgent group fighting the government has vowed to disrupt the election process, terming the process as a "ploy of U.S. to continue its occupation of Afghanistan", calling upon people to boycott the voting process. "The militants tried to intimidate the voters but they are failing. Even, there were minor attacks, all the brave Afghan men and women still stand in long queue to vote. In my opinion the turn out seem very high," a female voter, Najiba, told Xinhua in a polling station.
No major security incident took place during the election as of midday. "We are winning and the enemy is losing," said Safi Ullah, 40, adding "The Taliban failed to disrupt our elections. I really proud of our security forces. They are brave."
There were reports of shortages of ballot papers and other election materials in Kabul, northern Jawzjan and western Herat province at around midday.
"Based on reports by our police forces, no major security incident took place during the election process as of now across the country to deter people for voting," Afghan Interior Minister Mohammad Omar Daudzai said in a statement issued at around 10:36 at the morning.
More than 12 million eligible voters, with 35 percent of them women, are expected to cast their ballots on the Election Day.
The polling stations opened at 7:00 a.m. (local time) Saturday and will close at 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon. The polling time could be extend for one or two more hours depending on the number of voters.
Earlier on Saturday, at least seven people were injured in blasts and firing in eastern Kunar and neighboring Logar province.
However, the balloting began shortly after the attack.
In northern Faryab province, security forces detained a would- be suicide bomber and foiled a possible terror attack on the election day.
Allegations of fraud and voters intimidation had been reported in some polling centers.
Two security officials were detained following stuffing ballot boxes in eastern Wardak province earlier Saturday, according to an Interior Ministry statement.
Residents in Kunar said six including a security officer were detained on charge of ballot stuffing and other election violation in Chapa Dara district. In eastern Khost province, four people, including a woman, were captured with 1,760 fake voting cards. They tried to use the cards for a presidential candidate, the provincial government said in a statement.
The number of presidential candidates has dropped to eight after the withdrawal of three contenders from the race, and those running for the council seats in 34 provinces across the country exceed 2,700.
The provincial runners, including 380 women, will vie for 458 seats of the provincial councils or assemblies, including 96 seats for women.
The leading candidates are former foreign ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zulmai Rassoul as well as former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.
Earlier in the day, eight militants were killed while the roadside bombs they were planning went off in Kapisa and Ghazni province. More than 250,000 national and international election observers are monitoring the polling while nearly the same number of security forces are providing security for the election.