KABUL, Afghanistan | As Afghanistan’s second-ever presidential campaign season came to a close Monday, authorities moved to tighten security in the face of Taliban threats to disrupt the vote with attacks on polling stations.
Fears persist that militant violence could affect balloting in the Pashtun-dominated south with adverse results for President Hamid Karzai, the Pashtun front-runner. Mr. Karzai needs more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff.
The head of the Afghan intelligence service, Amrullah Saleh, announced Sunday that some militant commanders have agreed not interfere with the elections. Afghan security forces will observe a one-day cease-fire.
Just days before Afghans go to the polls, reports said some Taliban militants were mobilizing toward populated areas with the intention of stepping up attacks.
A roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan killed a U.S. service member Monday, while an American civilian working for the military died after insurgents attacked a patrol in the east, officials said, according to the Associated Press.
The military death brings to 22 the number of U.S. troops killed in August, as foreign and Afghan forces step up their fight against the Taliban-led insurgency raging in much of the country’s south and east.
In Kandahar, the southern birthplace of the Taliban, witnesses said by telephone that they heard gunfire on the outskirts of the city Monday evening — a day after three rocket-propelled grenades were fired into the city, killing a girl.
For several months, the Taliban has distributed so-called night letters threatening to punish would-be voters. One letter in circulation says people with blue ink on their fingers will have them cut off.
A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, confirmed that all who vote would be considered “enemies of Islam” subject to reprisals, and not just those in the south of the country.
Afghan officials concede there will not be voting in several volatile districts outside the city. But Gen. Mirwais Khan, the police chief of Kandahar, said Afghan and NATO forces are working hard to ensure the streets are peaceful Thursday.
In Kabul, caravans of supporters of the candidates took to the streets waving posters and shouting slogans from mounted loudspeakers.
Abdullah Abdullah, Mr. Karzai’s former foreign minister and now his leading challenger, held a rally at the capital’s main sports stadium — once a Taliban execution site - lambasting the president for failing to confront corruption at the highest levels of his government.
“Do you want to vote for the president who releases killers from jail, who releases opium traders from jail?” Mr. Abdullah asked more than 10,000 supporters, many wearing blue hats and T-shirts with his image.
A helicopter airdropped thousands of leaflets calling for change, including Mr. Abdullah’s photograph and election number to help the illiterate vote for him.
Mr. Karzai kept a lower profile after allowing notorious Uzbek militia leader, Abdul Rashid Dostum, to return to Afghanistan on Sunday night from exile in Turkey despite strong opposition from the United States.View Entire Story
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