|An Afghan soldier carried a youth who suffered shrapnel wounds in an improvised explosive device attack yesterday in southern Afghanistan to US soldiers for treatment. The weapon is suspected to have been intended for US Marines patrolling the area. Instead, civilians were maimed and an Afghan man lost his legs. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press)|
Taliban threaten to attack polls in Afghan elections
Insurgents urge citizens to spurn Sept. 18 vote
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban vowed yesterday to attack polling places in Sept. 18 parliamentary elections, warning Afghans not to participate in what they called a sham vote.
Meanwhile, two coalition service members, one British and one from the Republic of Georgia, were killed in fighting in the turbulent south, while a political rival of President Hamid Karzai questioned his approach to pending talks with rebels who might be persuaded to abandon the insurgency.
The threat issued yesterday comes just less than two weeks before the vote and follows the announcement of a final list of polling places to be opened around the country.
“It is only to the benefit of foreigners who want to maintain their existence in the country by holding such a process and we believe that the people will not get any benefit out of it,’’ a Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said in a telephone interview.
“That’s why we announced to the local people that all Afghan people should boycott this election and they should not participate on the polling date,’’ Mujahid said.
The Taliban position is consistent with those it has taken in the past. The insurgents seek to topple the government in Kabul and drive foreign troops from the country, and have boycotted or sought to sabotage all aspects of the political process.
Taliban threats and intimidation drove down voter turnout in last year’s fraud-marred presidential election, especially in rural areas where security is harder to ensure, and many Afghans this time say they will not vote for fear of attacks.
Election officials plan to open 5,897 voting sites, having discarded more than 900 locations because of security concerns. Last year, 6,167 voting centers nominally operated.
Voters will choose 249 members of the lower house of parliament from among more than 2,500 candidates, including dozens of women.
Afghanistan’s government and its foreign partners say they hope the elections will further consolidate the country’s shaky democracy and put it on a path toward long-term political stability, allowing the withdrawal of the roughly 140,000 NATO-led foreign soldiers in the country.
The two deaths yesterday bring to seven the number of foreign fighters who have fallen in Afghanistan this month, five of them Americans.
The Ministry of Defense identified the British soldier as belonging to First Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland, and said he died in a blast in the Nad-e-Ali district of Helmand province during an operation against insurgents.
His name has not been released.
A total of 88 British soldiers have died in Afghanistan so far in 2010 — a particularly bloody year for the 10,000 British forces in the country — bringing the total number of British deaths since the start of the war in 2001 to 333.
Georgia’s deputy defense minister, Nodar Kharshiladze, said a 28-year-old battalion commander was killed, and a 25 year-old corporal was wounded early yesterday in an unspecified location.
NATO gave no details on the second soldier killed, saying only that he died in fighting in the south.