x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Bomb destroys Afghan election lorry, kills three

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan // A roadside bomb hit a lorry carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai.

Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud.

Around seven million people turned out to vote, according to the Independent Election Commission (IEC), a turnout of over 50 per cent despite poor weather and Taliban threats to target the election.

Sayed Sarwar Hossaini, police spokesman for the province of Kunduz, said the lorry was hit as it carried ballot boxes from polling stations to Kunduz city.

“The blast killed three people, including an IEC member, a policeman and a driver. The lorry and eight ballot boxes were destroyed,” Mr Hossaini said.

Roadside bombs have been a key weapon for the Taliban in the bloody insurgency they have waged against Mr Karzai’s government and its Western backers since being removed from power in 2001.

In the run-up to the poll the Islamists urged their fighters to target election workers, voters and security forces to disrupt the vote, which they rejected as a foreign plot.

Saturday’s polling day passed off without major militant attacks, though casualties were reported from small incidents around the country.

Emanuele Nannini, programme coordinator for International NGO Emergency which runs three hospitals in Afghanistan, said they treated an unusually high number of wounded on Saturday.

“Around 30 war-related casualties were admitted into our hospitals in Kabul and Lashkar Gah,” he said.

Preliminary results are due on April 24 and if no candidate secures more than 50 per cent of the vote, a run-off is planned for late May.

The front-runners are former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani and former ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zalmai Rassoul.

Whoever emerges victorious faces the prospect of fighting the Taliban without the help of 51,000 US-led Nato combat troops, which are withdrawing this year.

* Agence France-Presse