The Taliban have kidnapped 19 people associated with Afghanistan's parliamentary election, including a candidate, eight ballot officials and 10 campaign workers, officials said today. The candidate was snatched in the eastern province of Laghman and the other 18 men in Bagdhis, in the northwest, provincial chiefs of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) said. "Abdul Rahman Hayat, a candidate for the Wolesi Jirga (lower house), was kidnapped in Alishing district today at around 7am," said Abdul Rahman Muhabat, head of the IEC in Laghman province.
Afghanistan is due to go to the polls on Saturday to elect 249 lawmakers. The Taliban, nine years into a vicious insurgency, have threatened attacks to disrupt the poll and have already killed three candidates in the run up to the vote. In a text message, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said: "We have kidnapped Hayatullah Hayat," referring to the candidate. Abdul Rahman, the head of the IEC in Bagdhis, said eight election officials and 10 campaign workers were kidnapped late yesterday by the Taliban in the Muqur district.
Mohammad Shah Hanzala, the district governor, confirmed the incident and said the abducted men had been taken to a Taliban-dominated region of the same province. A Taliban spokesman said yesterday that polling centres, election workers and security forces would be targeted on election day, and warned that voters who dare to try to cast ballots "will get hurt". More than 2,500 candidates are standing nationwide for the 249 seats in the lower house of parliament.
Tens of thousands of Afghan security forces were on high alert today as election officials in Kabul said preparations for the vote were complete. Nato's International Security Assistance Force said it was prepared to back up Afghan forces in the case of "emergencies". * AFP