Afghanistan: Kandahar goes to polls after week's delay

Suicide bomber targets electoral officials in Kabul

Suicide bomber targets electoral officials in Kabul

Afghans risked their lives to vote in legislative elections in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, after the Taliban-claimed killing of a powerful police chief delayed the ballot by a week.

Two days before the elections last weekend, General Abdul Razeq was assassinated by one of the security guards of Kandahar Governor Zalmai Wesa.

The general Scott Miller, commander-in-chief of the american army and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in Afghanistan, present at the time of the attack, was unharmed. Polls closed at 5pm local time but election officials could not immediately determine the turnout from the 567,000 registered voters in Kandahar.

Kandaharians will cast their votes in 173 polling stations across the province.

However, Independent Election Commission (IEC) said no poll would be held in the restive Maruf and Nish districts, as no voters have so far been registered there.

The attacker was "identified and gunned down by police before reaching his target", Kabul police spokesman Basir Mujahid told reporters.

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One police officer was killed and six others, including election workers and policemen, were wounded in the blast. People in Afghanistan's southern province of Kandahar on Saturday started voting for their favorite candidates for parliament, after a week-long delay in the process.

On the first day of the elections, 15 people were killed in a suicide attack in the capital Kabul.

That was significantly higher than the government's casualty figures, supporting speculation that officials had deliberately downplayed the violence so voters would not be scared off.

Voting in parliamentary elections has been completed in 33 of the country's 34 provinces. More than 2,500 candidates are competing for the 250 seats in the lower house.

The latest assault by the Taliban comes amid a flurry of US-led diplomatic activity to convince the group to negotiate an end to the 17-year war.

Preliminary results of the elections held on October 20-21 are expected to be announced on November 10, while final results are due by December 20.

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