Violence increases as Afghans prepare to vote

Author: Press Association

The men all died when police stormed the building.

The attack came a day after more than 20 people were killed in attacks across
the country, including a suicide blast in Kabul as the Taliban attempted to
carry out their threat to disrupt the election.

In a sign of how difficult preparations have been, Afghanistan’s chief
electoral officer said that 20 per cent of ballot papers and boxes had not
yet been delivered to voting sites less than 24 hours before polls open at
7am tomorrow. Daoud Ali Najafi said Afghan army helicopters would be used to
deliver them to insecure and difficult-to-reach regions.

The Interior Ministry has said that about a third of Afghanistan is at high
risk of militant attack. No polling stations will open in eight Afghan
districts under control of militants. Preliminary results of the
presidential election should be announced sometime on Saturday evening, he
said.

In today’s attack the three armed men took over a branch of the Pashtani bank
in a section of Kabul’s old city still in ruins from the country’s 1990s
civil war.

Police surrounded the building, exchanging gunfire with the attackers. The
sound of scattered gunfire and small explosions reverberated through the
city for several hours.

Police eventually stormed the building and killed the men.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that the rise in
insurgent violence in Afghanistan reflected a deliberate campaign to
intimidate voters.

Attacks nationwide have increased in recent days from a daily average of about
32 to 48, said a spokesman for the Nato-led force. Even with the increase,
he said that insurgents do not have the ability to widely disrupt voting at
the country’s 6,500 or so polling sites.

“When you’re looking purely at statistics … they’re not going to be able to
attack even 1 percent of the entire polling sites in this country,” he said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged all Afghans to vote and said that
by participating in the election they will help “bring fresh vigour to the
country’s political life, and ultimately reaffirm their commitment to
contribute to the peace and prosperity of their nation.”

The next president will face challenges on several fronts: the rising Taliban
insurgency, internal political divisions, ethnic tensions, unemployment, the
country’s drug trade and corruption.

Current president Hamid Karzai is favourite, but if he does not get more than
half the vote he and the second-place finisher will face off in an October
run-off.

Fearing that violence may dampen turnout, the Foreign Ministry asking news
organisations to avoid “broadcasting any incidence of violence” on election
day “to ensure the wide participation of the Afghan people.” The statement
did not spell out any penalties for those who do not comply.

The English version said media “are requested” to follow the guidelines. The
version in the Afghan language Dari said broadcasting news or video from a
“terrorist attack” was “strictly forbidden.”

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