19 Sep 2010

Afghans brave violence to vote

10:01 am on 19 September 2010

Turnout in Afghanistan's parliamentary election has been estimated at about 40%, as voters braved violence and threats by the Taliban to disrupt the poll.

Afghan officials declared the vote a success despite the low turnout and a string of attacks, that included rocket strikes in provincial centres, as well as one that landed near the US embassy and the headquarters of NATO-led forces in central Kabul about three hours before polls opened.

The Afghan interior ministry said at least 14 people were killed including six security force members in a Taliban attack in the north.

There have also been some reports of fraud, including the washing off of supposedly indelible voting ink, the BBC reports.

Two election observers were wounded by an explosion inside a polling centre in eastern Khost province, a Taliban stronghold near the Pakistan border, Khost police chief Abdul Haqim Eshaqzai said.

The Governor of Kandahar survived an explosion while visiting polling centres in the southern region.

The poll is seen as a test of credibility for President Hamid Karzai, the government and security forces.

20 abductions reported

Earlier, authorities said two parliamentary candidates and 18 election officials and campaign workers had been kidnapped.

The Taliban say they kidnapped a candidate in Laghman province on Friday and the 18 officials and campaign workers in Bagdhis on Thursday.

The BBC reports another candidate was kidnapped in Herat by unknown armed men on Wednesday, according to the Electoral Complaints Commission.

The election is seen as a test of stability ahead of a war strategy review by the United States in December that will probably determine the scale and pace of US troop withdrawals.