KABUL – Insurgents cut the fingers off nearly a dozen voters and killed 11 other people, including four election workers, to punish them for voting in this weekend’s presidential runoff, officials said Sunday.
The Taliban had warned people not to participate in Saturday’s vote. The two candidates, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, have both vowed to improve ties with the West and sign a long-delayed security pact allowing nearly 10,000 U.S. troops to remain in the country for two more years.
Afghanistan was relatively quiet the day after the second round of voting as the process of counting the votes began. Official preliminary results were to be announced on July 2, with final results released on July 22. The commission plans to release partial results in the coming weeks.
The voting was relatively peaceful despite a series of rocket barrages and other scattered attacks that Interior Minister Mohammad Umar Daudzai said killed 47 people, including 20 civilians and an election commission worker. He said 60 militants were killed.
Later on Saturday a minibus hit an improvised explosive device in the northern Samangan province, with the blast killing six women, one child and four men in the provincial capital Aybak, said Sediq Azizi, spokesman for the provincial governor.
Azizi said four of the victims were employees of the election commission, which organized Saturday’s vote. It was not immediately clear if they were the target of the explosion.
In a separate incident, the Taliban cut off the index fingers of 11 civilians on Saturday in western Herat province to punish them for voting, police spokesman Raoud Ahamdi said.
The United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan condemned the mutilations in Herat.
“Like millions of their countrymen and women, these ordinary Afghans were exercising their fundamental right to determine the future path of their country through voting and not through violence and intimidation. By their vote, they already defeated those who promote terror and violence,” said Jan Kubis, the U.N. special representative.
In the southern Kandahar province police said they raided a building on Sunday that had been occupied by the Taliban the day before, setting off clashes in which police shot dead two would-be suicide bombers but were unable to prevent another two from blowing themselves up, killing three policemen and wounding another two.
Gen. Abdul Razeq Achakzai, Kandahar’s provincial police chief, said his forces had surrounded the building on Saturday but waited to move in until after the voting ended.
Afghans braved threats of violence and searing heat Saturday to vote in the presidential runoff, which likely will mark the country’s first peaceful transfer of authority, an important step toward democracy as foreign combat troops leave.
Abdullah, who emerged as the front-runner with 45 per cent of the vote in the first round, faced 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.
The Independent Election Commission said initial estimates showed that more than seven million Afghans voted Saturday, or about 60 per cent of the country’s 12 million eligible voters. The first round on April 5 saw a similar turnout.
The Electoral Complaint Commission has started processing complaints and will continue to do so through the end of the day Monday when the deadline expires, spokesman Nadir Mohsini said.
© The Canadian Press, 2014