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Afghan presidential election: Voting underway

Kabul, Sep 28 : Voting is underway in Afghanistan’s presidential election on Saturday amid fears of violence following threats by the Taliban to disrupt the election process and therefore concerns over turnout due to possible attacks.

Security has been tightened across the country, with tens of thousands of troops and police deployed to guard polling stations and prevent attacks.

Early on Saturday, an explosion occurred near a polling station in the southern city of Kandahar, wounding at least 15 people.

Due to Taliban threats, the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) has decided not to hold voting in areas under Taliban control and therefore 4,942 out of the total 7,385 polling centres are available for voting.

Some 9.6 million Afghans – 34.5 per cent of them women – are eligible to vote.

A total of 15 candidates are in the fray but President Ashraf Ghani, who is seeking a second term in office, and his Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah are top two contenders..

Saturday’s presidential election is the fourth in Afghanistan since 2001, when the US troops invaded the country to oust the Taliban regime.

Of these, 675 voting centres have been designated highly sensitive from a security point of view while as 907 face low-security threats. Some 3,360 have been declared fully secure for voting.

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About 72,000 soldiers have been deployed across the country to maintain law and order during the voting, according to the Interior Ministry.An additional 30,000 troops will also be on standby to respond to any imminent Taliban attack.

Another major candidate is former warlord and former Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – known as the “Butcher of Kabul” for continuously bombing the capital in 1992 during the Afghan civil war, killing at least 1,000 people and leaving more than 8,000 injured in his wake.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid on Thursday called the election a “fake process of the American invaders and their few servile slaves” and promised to disrupt it “by attacking all security personnel that guard this process and by targeting offices and centres that operate for this staged show”.

The insurgent group warned “all those individuals, especially city dwellers, that intend to participate in this process to stay away from polling stations on election day and not throw themselves into danger”.

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