Rockets hit Afghan towns on poll day; early turnout low


Kabul : Several rockets hit southern and northern provinces early Thursday and police arrested two would-be suicide bombers, shortly after voting started in Afghanistan’s presidential election, officials said.

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Two rockets landed close to a polling station in the northern city of Kunduz, the capital of the province of the same name, Thursday morning, said Mohboobullah Sayedi, spokesman for the provincial governor.

He said no one was hurt in the attack, but a DPA reporter in the town saw a wounded child and the school which was turned into voting site was damaged.

A bomb went off near a police headquarters in the northern province of Takhar, causing no casualties but destroying the wall of the station, said Ziauddin Mahmoodi, the provincial police chief.

He said police also arrested two would-be suicide bombers, who tried to enter polling stations in the province’s Farkhar district.

A district police chief for the northern province of Baghlan was killed Thursday morning when militants attacked a police post in the province, a security source in the province said.

At least two rockets also landed in the southern province of Kandahar, but caused no casualties, the provincial governor Tooryalai Wesa told reporters after casting his vote in the province.

At least two civilians were wounded when a rocket landed in Lashkargah, the capital of the southern province of Helmand, also Thursday morning, a security source who requested anonymity said.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement that their fighters attacked at least 16 polling stations throughout the country, but government official could not confirm this.

The Taliban have repeatedly warned Afghans not to go to polling stations, saying they would slit the throats and chop off fingers of anyone who votes.

Initial turnout was about a third or a fourth of the turnout in the 2004 elections, possibly also out of fear of attacks, which in Kabul often occur in the early hours of the day, witnesses said.

People were afraid of attacks, but there was hope that turnout would pick up later in the day, said political analyst Haroon Mir.

President Hamid Karzai, the frontrunner, who cast his vote at a polling station near the presidential palace early in the day, urged people to take part in the elections, his office said in a statement.

“Hamid Karzai requested Afghan people to come out of their houses and come to polling stations and bravely elect their president and provincial councils,” the presidential statement said.

There were unconfirmed reports about attacks in other parts of the country, but fearing a low turnout, the Afghan government requested all national and international media organisations not to report violence on election day.