Security is tight in southern Kandahar as voters head to the polls in parliamentary elections that were delayed in the province by one week after an attack by an elite guard killed two top government officials.
Major roads throughout southern Kandahar were closed nearly 24 hours before polls opened to stop vehicle-born explosive devices from entering the province, said provincial governor’s spokesman Aziz Ahmed Azizi.
Kandahar Governor Zalmay Wesa was seriously hurt in the October 18 attack that killed provincial police chief General Abdul Raziq and also targeted the commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan, General Scott Miller, who escaped unhurt. US General Jeffery Smiley was wounded.
Mr Raziq’s strongman tactics had been credited with repulsing successive Taliban attempts to gain a foothold in Kandahar, once their spiritual heartland.
The first parliamentary elections since 2010 are being held against a backdrop of near-daily attacks by the Taliban, who have seized nearly half the country and have repeatedly refused offers to negotiate with the Afghanistan government.
The US-backed government is rife with corruption and many Afghans have said they do not expect the elections to be fair.
Yet millions of Afghans have defied Taliban threats and waited, often for hours, to cast their votes.
Independent Election Commission deputy spokesman Aziz Ibrahimi said voting was to start at 7am at 1,113 polling stations throughout Kandahar, but early reports said scores of polling stations were late opening because staff did not show up or election materials were not readily available.
Mr Ibrahimi said 111 candidates were vying for 11 seats in Parliament from southern Kandahar in Afghanistan’s 249-seat chamber.
Preliminary results of nationwide voting are not expected before mid-November.