Sunday Tribune

Fresh terror threat to Afghan elections

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KABUL: Taliban fighters have warned Afghans not to participat­e in the war-wracked country’s upcoming presidenti­al runoff, threatenin­g to launch a fresh wave of violence on polling day to stop them.

Yesterday’s warnings came on the first official day of campaignin­g for the November 7 vote.

The militant group denounced the race between President Hamid Karzai and challenger Abdullah Abdullah as “a failed, American process” and said its fighters would “launch operations against the enemy and stop people from taking part”.

The group said Taliban militants will also cut off key roads and highways, and warned that anyone who casts a ballot “will bear responsibi­lity for their actions”.

Taliban fighters killed dozens of civilians during the first round of elections on August 20.

Security fears are just one of the challenges election officials face as they scramble to organise a new election amid a swelling Taliban insurgency before the advent of winter, which will begin around the middle of November, isolating remote villages and cutting off roads with snow.

As campaignin­g began, several senior Abdullah campaign officials accused the top three members of Afghanista­n’s Independen­t Election Commission of bias, saying they should be replaced to ensure the country’s upcoming runoff was fair.

A spokesman for the commission, Noor Mohammad Noor, denied the allegation­s and said it was “impossible” to replace them.

The Afghan Independen­t Election Commission, dominated by Karzai supporters, is under huge pressure to avoid a repeat of the cheating which discredite­d the government and threatened to undermine public support for the war in the US, which provides the bulk of the 100 000 Nato-led force.

Abdullah officials singled out election commission chairman Azizullah Lodin, chief electoral officer Daoud Ali Najafi, and the commission’s deputy director, Zekria Barakzai. A senior campaign official for Abdullah, Houmayoun Asafi, said the three were “openly working for Karzai”.

“If they are again in charge for the second round, the same thing will happen,” Asafi said, referring to the widespread fraud. “If the second round is also controvers­ial, then the result will not be good.”

Noor said the officials had been appointed by constituti­onal procedures and could not be replaced. – Sapa-AP

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