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15 injured in blast outside Afghan mosque being used as polling station in presidential election

28 Sep 2019 Daily Mail Online

A bomb explosion outside a mosque being used as a polling station in Afghanistan has injured 15 people, according to a doctor who spoke on condition of his anonymity.

A police officer and several election officials were struck by the blast and three are in a critical condition at a hospital in Kandahar.

An upsurge in violence in the run-up to Afghanistan's presidential elections has already rattled the country in past weeks following the collapse of US talks with the Taliban to end America's longest war. 

A police officer and several election officials were struck by a bomb blast outside a mosque that was being used as a polling station and three are in a critical condition at a hospital in Kandahar

An upsurge in violence in the run-up to Afghanistan's presidential elections has already rattled the country in past weeks following the collapse of US talks with the Taliban to end America's longest war

The bandaged hand of a man who was injured during today's bomb explosion 

The leading contenders are incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and his partner in the five-year-old unity government, Abdullah Abdullah, who already alleges power abuse by his opponent. 

Today many voters expressed equal fear and frustration over relentless government corruption and the widespread chaos at polling stations. 

Tens of thousands of police, intelligence officials and Afghan National Army personnel have been deployed throughout the country to protect the 4,942 election centres. 

Authorities said 431 polling centres will stay closed because it was impossible to guarantee their security since they were either in areas under Taliban control or where insurgents could threaten nearby villages.  

In northern Kunduz, where the Taliban have previously threatened the city - even briefly taking control of some areas - insurgents fired mortar rounds into the city and attacked Afghan security forces on its outskirts, said Ghulam Rabani, a council member for the province. 

The leading contenders in the election are incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and his partner in the five-year-old unity government, Abdullah Abdullah, who already alleges power abuse by his opponent

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Today many voters expressed equal fear and frustration over relentless government corruption and the widespread chaos at polling stations

Rabani said the attacks are to 'frighten people and force them to stay in their home and not participate in the election.'

The numbers of casualties wasn't immediately clear, said Rabani, with telecommunication networks disrupted or even completely down at times.  

The government's push to hold the vote was in itself controversial. 

In an interview last week, former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who still wields heavy influence, warned that the vote could be destabilising for the country at a time of deep political uncertainty and hinder restarting the peace process with the Taliban. 

The violence came while many Afghans - even those managing to vote - worried the election results would be overwhelmed by accusations of fraud and misconduct as they were during the last election.

In the capital's northern Taimani neighborhood of mostly ethnic Hazaras, two-thirds of the voting registration papers had yet to arrive in the first hours of voting, and angry voters were told their names were not on the list.

Tens of thousands of police, intelligence officials and Afghan National Army personnel have been deployed throughout the country to protect the 4,942 election centres

Abdul Ghafoor, who spoke on behalf of dozens of men waiting to cast their ballot, said that of about 3,000 registered voters, only 400 appeared on the list that had arrived at the center.

Ghafoor said he was told to return at 2pm and that he would be allowed to vote even if his name was not on the list and without using the biometric machine.

'But how can they do this? My vote won't count if I am not on a list,' he said.

In Khoja Ali Mohfaq Herawi mosque in Kabul's well-to-do Shahr-e-Now neighborhood, election workers struggled with biometric machines as well as finding names on voters' lists.

Ahmad Shah, 32, cast his vote, but said the election worker forgot to ink his finger - which is mandatory to prevent multiple voting by the same person.

Abdul Ghafoor, who spoke on behalf of dozens of men waiting to cast their ballot, said that of about 3,000 registered voters, only 400 appeared on the list that had arrived at the center

'What sort of system is this?' he asked, frustrated that he had risked his safety to vote and expressed fear that fraud will mar the election results. 'It's a mess.'

Still, 63-year old Ahmad Khan urged people to vote.

'It is the only way to show the Taliban we are not afraid of them,' he said, though he too worried at the apparent glitches in the process.

In Kabul traffic was light, with police and the army scattered throughout the city, stopping cars and looking for anything out of the ordinary. Larger vehicles were not being allowed into the capital on Saturday, which is normally a working day but for the elections was declared a holiday.

Campaigning for Saturday's elections was subdued and went into high gear barely two weeks ahead of the polls as most of the 18 presidential candidates expected a deal between the United States and the Taliban to delay the vote. 

In Kabul traffic was light, with police and the army scattered throughout the city, stopping cars and looking for anything out of the ordinary

But on September 7, President Donald Trump declared a deal that seemed imminent dead after violent attacks in Kabul killed 12 people, including two U.S.-led coalition soldiers, one of whom was American.

While many of the presidential candidates withdrew from the election, none formally did so, leaving all 18 candidates on the ballot.

Elections in Afghanistan are notoriously flawed and in the last presidential polls in 2014, allegations of widespread corruption were so massive that the United States intervened to prevent violence. 

No winner was declared and the US cobbled together the unity government in which Ghani and Abdullah shared equal power - Ghani as president and Abdullah as chief executive, a newly created position.

Constant bickering and infighting within the government frustrated attempts to bring in substantive legislation as security, which has been tenuous, continued to deteriorate, frustrating Afghans and causing many to flee as refugees.

Neighbouring Pakistan, routinely accused of aiding insurgents, said it was re-opening its borders with Afghanistan after receiving a request from the Afghan defense minister to allow Afghans to return home to vote. Pakistan had announced the border would be closed Saturday and Sunday. 

Original Link: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7514955/15-injured-blast-outside-Afghan-mosque-used-polling-station-presidential-election.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490

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