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Afghanistan fears more violence, dozens dead on polling day

By Sheetal Sukhija, Afghanistan News.Net
21 Oct 2018, 20:56 GMT+10

KABUL, Afghanistan - Despite a threat of violent attacks, thousands of Afghans bravely headed to the polls on Saturday to make a decision on the leadership of the war-torn country.

While Afghans voted across 401 polling centres in the country, the insurgent group that had been making plans to target the elections, delivered on its vow.

Taliban, which had labelled the country's parliamentary elections a "malicious American conspiracy designed to tighten the U.S. grip on Afghanistan" carried out a total of 193 attacks.

On Saturday, as the country voted in the polls that were delayed by three years, Taliban reportedly carried out 193 attacks across polling centres, leaving 67 people dead and 126 others injured through the day. 

Officials said that of the 67 people killed in different attacks on Saturday, nine were members of the security forces, 27 were civilians and 31 were insurgents.

Further, 126 people were injured in the 193 attacks carried out across the country. 

According to Afghanistan's Ministry of Interior, 70,000 soldiers and police officers had been deployed across the country, to provide security during Saturday's election.

At a press conference, Afghanistan's Deputy Interior Minister Akhtar Mohammad Ibrahimi revealed details of the attacks that took place on Saturday and said that the 193 attacks against security forces and polling centres began at around 7 am and continued until at least 6 pm. 

According to the statement released by Ibrahimi, through the day, 76 raids took place at polling centres throughout the country.

The attacks also included a deadly suicide blast in Kabul, a dozen explosions near polling centres and armed fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces.

He confirmed in the statement that the attacks in a single day had led to 27 civilian deaths and 100 people suffering serious injuries. 

Ibrahimi added that nine members of the security forces died and 25 were injured.

He further confirmed that the attacks also saw 31 Taliban insurgents being killed and 18 being arrested.

However, Taliban, which had called on voters to abandon the polls, repeated its statement on Saturday and vowed more bloodshed.

A Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi disputed the figures released by the government and said that the group had carried out 400 attacks, in which "dozens of soldiers and police were killed or injured."

Declaring "the elections failed," another Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement, "Enemy's polling stations all over the country are under attack by Mujahideen, countrymen must refrain from taking part in this fake process to save their lives and not to become a tool for the implementation of the evil plans of the enemy."

Meanwhile, the Afghan presidential spokesman Haroon Chakhansori described the elections as a "success" and a "defeat for terrorists."

Further, the Afghan Deputy Interior Minister pointed out that the number of attacks on Saturday represent half of those that took place in 2014 during the presidential elections.

Security challenges, along with political and economic instability forced the elections in the country to be delayed since 2015. 

Further, the elections are crucial in the war torn country as it will test the state of Afghanistan's fragile democracy, and prove to decide the course for the presidential elections that are set to take place in April 2019.

Meanwhile, as voting resumed in 401 polling centres on Sunday, fears of more bloodshed were high. 

In addition, officials from the Independent Election Commission (IEC) told reporters late on Saturday that "inevitable" problems with biometric verification devices, as well as missing voter registration lists and lack of staffing delayed or even prevented voting at some polling sites.

IEC's initial figures showed that compared to nearly nine million registered voters, only around three million voters turned up at 4,500 polling centres.

IEC also confirmed that elections in Ghazni and Kandahar provinces had been postponed.

The commission also said that the final results of Saturday's voting will not be available until later in December.

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