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KABUL (Reuters) – Afghans braved the specter of militant attacks and delays at polling booths to vote in a presidential election on Saturday, a indispensable take a look at of the Western-backed Afghan executive’s skill to shield democracy regardless of Taliban makes an are trying to derail the polls.

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah poses as he casts his vote at a polling web online page in Kabul, Afghanistan September 28, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Extra than 9 million registered voters are potentially heading to the polls amid attacks in a couple of cities.

Fourteen candidates are registered however the sprint will seemingly come all of the plot in which down to incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and his ragged deputy Abdullah Abdullah.

The winner will play a important role within the nation’s quest to conclude the warfare with the Taliban and any resumption of talks between the insurgents and the US that had been called off earlier this month.

The hardline neighborhood, which controls more of the nation than at anytime since its regime used to be toppled in 2001, has threatened voters to steer clear of the election or face dire penalties.

To shield voters and polling stations, tens of hundreds of Afghan forces had been deployed steady through 34 provinces.

A senior defense ministry reliable mentioned there maintain been sporadic attacks however the election process used to be going neatly.

About 9.6 million of Afghanistan’s 34 million other folks are registered to vote for one among the 14 candidates at around 5,000 polling centers that shall be safe by some 100,000 Afghan forces with air give a boost to from U.S. forces.

“Bravado gets defined when one musters braveness to cast their vote in Afghanistan,” mentioned Roya Jahangir, a physician based within the capital of Kabul.

Jahangir mentioned she and her husband will vote despite the undeniable fact that it attain standing in long queues for hours.

“We hope this time there isn’t the kind of thing as a fraud — in any other case voters will genuinely feel cheated all over again.”

Media showed traces of males and women outside a form of polling stations, indicating strong turnout in some areas.

In the northern province of Balkh, voters waited for election officials to attain at polling stations put of abode up in faculties, faculties, mosques, neatly being facility campuses and district centers.

An explosion at a polling web online page in a mosque within the southern Afghan city of Kandahar wounded 14 other folks, in accordance with a security provide. In the northern Faryab province, Afghan forces clashed with Taliban fighters in six districts, forcing other folks to conclude indoors and refrain from voting.

The Taliban mentioned in a assertion their fighters attacked polling stations in japanese Laghman province. Officers mentioned four explosions in japanese Jalalabad city disrupted voting at some stations.

Explosions furthermore hit the Afghan cities of Kabul, Ghazni and Jalalabad, officials mentioned.

The hardline Islamist neighborhood intensified attacks in opposition to the Afghan and foreign forces following the give plot of talks between the U.S. and the Taliban earlier this month.

U.S.-led airstrikes maintain ended in the destruction of Taliban and Islamic Deliver hideouts but dozens of civilians caught within the crossfire had been killed and injured within the attacks this month.

Western diplomats in Kabul mentioned the ability resumption of talks is dependent on the size of attacks conducted by the Taliban to forestall elections.

“Talks can finest launch if the Taliban workouts restraint and permits other folks to vote,” mentioned a diplomat overseeing the elections.

POLLING STATIONS CLOSED

Extra than 400 polling centers will stay closed on legend of they’re in areas under Taliban alter. Hundreds more shall be closed thanks to security considerations.

Shamsuddin, a resident of Dehdadi district in northern Balkh province, mentioned polling stations weren’t initiate attributable to overnight clashes between the Taliban and Afghan forces.

The voting process is one other provide of ache. The nation’s Honest Election Price (IEC) has come under criticism for issuing contradictory and unclear statements over what processes shall be in put of abode to forestall fraud if biometric programs fail at some level of the eight hours of voting.

Shaharzad Akbar, head of the Afghanistan Honest Human Rights Price, tweeted that the biometric identification process on the birth put resulted in errors sooner than she used to be in a put of abode to vote in Kabul.

“The system is too lengthy,” she mentioned.

Four of the 18 candidates registered to contest for the head job maintain dropped out of the sprint, but their names stay on the biometric voting devices.

Chief contenders Ghani and his ragged deputy Abdullah each came to energy in 2014 after a bitterly contested election marred by fraud.

“I thank God that this day that other folks’s vote will abet the republic of Afghanistan to pass forward,” Ghani mentioned, casting his pollin a Kabul excessive college.

Abdullah cast his pollat a irregular Kabul college.

“The threats to innocent other folks carry out no longer showcase the energy of the Taliban,” he mentioned.

Afghanistan’s political scene is silent sinful by the aftermath of the disputed presidential vote in 2014 which compelled the two predominant rival groupings to make an unstable partnership. Each and every aspects had been accused of massive electoral cheating.

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Western security sources and Afghan officials mentioned they had requested local media now to no longer sensationalize threats and attacks, fervent that they would maybe well well discourage voting.

The election is the fourth presidential vote for the reason that fall of the Taliban to U.S.-led forces.

Resulting from the ache of gathering and collating results steady through Afghanistan, the general results would possibly per chance well well no longer be identified sooner than Nov. 7.

Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi, Orooj Hakimi, Paul Carsten in Kabul, Mustafa Andalib in Ghazni, Sarawar Amani, Ismail Samim in Kandahar, Anwarullah Mohabbat in Paktia, Matin Sahak in Balkh, Storay Karimi in Herat, Ahmad Sultan and Rafiq Shirzad in Nangarhar, Writing by Rod Nickel; Enhancing by Christian Schmollinger & Kim Coghill