Afghanistan beefs up security ahead of polls

Kabul : The Afghanistan government has beefed up security ahead of Saturday’s presidential and provincial councils elections.

Security personnel have been deployed in sensitive areas and along roads leading to voting centres in Kabul and other cities as well as in towns and villages to ensure security for the voters, Xinhua reported.

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Afghanistan’s third presidential and provincial councils elections since the fall of Taliban in late 2001 are slated for Saturday.

The police will set up posts to check all vehicles entering the capital city of Kabul.

The government has urged all Afghans over age 18 years to visit voting centres Saturday and use their right of suffrage to elect the country’s new president and provincial councils’ members.

Earlier Friday, the Afghan election officials said that all the election sensitive materials, including ballot papers, boxes and indelible ink had been shifted to district centres across the country and would be transported by the early hours Saturday to polling centres before the voting begins.

Some 12 million Afghans are eligible to vote, 35 percent of them are women.

Afghan Minister for Interior Mohammad Omar Daudzai has said that all necessary measures have been put in place to protect polling centres as well as the voters.

Taliban militants have vowed to derail the elections and have termed the election process a “ploy of US to continue its occupation of Afghanistan”, calling upon people to boycott the voting process.

Scores of people, including election workers, have been killed by Taliban attacks since the launch of the election campaigns Feb 2.

Two provincial council elections candidates have also been killed during the 60-day campaign which ended Wednesday night.

The armed militant outfit has also vowed to target anyone attending the voting process or providing security for the elections.

However, Interior Minister Omar Daudzai has downplayed the Taliban threats, saying the national security forces were capable enough to ensure poll security and deal with any threat eventually.

The number of presidential candidates has dropped to eight after the withdrawal of three contenders from the race, while the number of those running for the council seats in 34 provinces across the country exceeds 2,500.

They are to vie for 458 seats of the provincial councils or assemblies, including 96 seats reserved for women.

The leading presidential candidates are former foreign ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zulmai Rassoul as well as former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.

A total of 195,000 army personnel will be deployed in sensitive areas across Afghanistan in aid of the police and other law enforcement agencies.

No major security incident took place as of Friday midday.

However, two Afghan soldiers were killed and four others were wounded in a clash and a rocket attack in the country’s eastern province of Kunar overnight.

Since early Thursday, two other soldiers were killed in a bomb attack, according to a defence ministry statement earlier Friday.