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Afghan Election Staff Abducted as Taliban Claims Attack in Kandahar

Afghan Election Staff Abducted as Taliban Claims Attack in Kandahar

Wednesday, 18 April, 2018 - 10:45
Gunmen attack a voter registration station in Ghor, Afghanistan. (AFP)

Gunmen attacked on Tuesday a voter registration center in Afghanistan where they kidnapped five people.

Three of the captives are employees. They also destroyed documents, official said of the incident that took place in the central province of Ghor.

It sparked concerns about security in the lead-up to the war-torn country's long-delayed legislative elections scheduled for October 20.

Armed men stormed the center in Aliyar district as Independent Election Commission staff were registering voters, provincial police spokesman Mohammad Iqbal Nizami told AFP, blaming the Taliban.

The group was not immediately available for comment.

Nizami said the militants abducted three IEC staff and two policemen charged with protecting the registration center.

"They also set all the voter registration materials on fire," Nizami said. "We are investigating and have launched a search operation."

Ghor governor spokesman Abdul Hai Khatibi confirmed the incident and said tribal leaders and elders were in talks with the local Taliban to free the IEC staff and police.

On Wednesday, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a bombing in the southern Kandahar province.

The attack left five people dead, including a police commander, an Afghan official said.

A Kandahar police spokesman said Colonel Janan Mama, commander of the border rapid reaction force, three of his police bodyguards and a civilian were killed in the blast.

The spokesman, Zia Durrani, said the sticky bomb was placed on the commander's vehicle in Kandahar city, the provincial capital.

The Taliban claimed responsibility in a statement sent to media. The insurgent group routinely targets Afghan officials and security forces.

Afghanistan last weekend began registering voters as it seeks to ensure that the parliamentary and district council elections -- which are a test-run for the presidential poll next year -- are seen as credible and fraud-free.

In an operation that will last for two months, authorities hope to register up to 14 million adults at more than 7,000 polling centers -- an ambitious goal in a country where militants control or contest much of the territory.

IEC officials have acknowledged that ensuring security at voter registration centers, particularly in rural areas, will be a major challenge.

Afghanistan's beleaguered security forces, already struggling to get the upper hand on the battlefield, have been tasked with protecting voter registration centers, which will be used as polling stations on election day.

More than 50,000 people in major cities have so far registered to vote, an IEC official told AFP on Wednesday.

He acknowledged it had "started slowly" but the process was gaining momentum.

The polls were originally set to be held in 2015 following presidential elections the previous year, but were repeatedly pushed back due to security fears and logistical issues within the fragile unity government.

If held, candidates will contest the 249 seats in the National Assembly for five-year terms. The country will also hold regional elections in tandem in hundreds of districts across Afghanistan -- some of which are outside Kabul's control.

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