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11 killed in Afghan poll violence

A roadside bomb killed 11 people in Afghanistan, including four election monitors, and the Taliban cut off the fingers of 11 people to punish them for voting in this weekend's presidential run-off, officials said.

The Taliban had warned people not to participate in yesterday's vote to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai. The two candidates, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, have vowed to improve ties with the West and sign a long-delayed security pact allowing nearly 10,000 US troops to remain in the country for two more years.

Sediq Azizi, spokesman for the provincial governor in the northern Samangan province, said a minibus hit an improvised explosive device last night, with the blast killing six women, one child and four men in the provincial capital Aybak.

Mr Azizi said four of the victims were employees of the country's election commission, which organised the vote. It was not immediately clear if they were the target of the explosion.

In a separate incident, the Taliban cut off the fingers of 11 civilians yesterday in western Herat province to punish them for voting, police spokesman Raoud Ahamdi said.

Afghans braved threats of violence and searing heat to vote, which likely will mark the country's first peaceful transfer of authority, an important step towards democracy as foreign combat troops leave.

Mr Abdullah, who emerged as the front-runner with 45% of the vote in the first round, faced Mr Ahmadzai, an ex-World Bank official. Neither garnered the majority needed to win outright, but previous candidates and their supporters have since offered endorsements to each, making the final outcome unpredictable.

Independent Election Commission chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani said initial estimates showed that more than 7 million Afghans voted yesterday, which would be equivalent to the first round on April 5. That would be a turnout of about 60% of the country's 12 million eligible voters.

Official preliminary results are to be announced on July 2, with final results released on July 22. Mr Nouristani said his commission would release partial results in the coming weeks.


From Belfast Telegraph