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In neighboring Kandahar province, militants fired rockets into the capital city in an effort to make good on pre-election promises to “punish” those who did not boycott the vote. Unconfirmed reports said that two people were hanged.

To prevent panic among would-be voters, the government enforced a ban on media coverage of violence on polling day - a move that was criticized by media and civil rights groups as a sign of the Karzai government’s fragility.

Richard S. Williamson, the IRI’s delegation leader in Afghanistan and a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the election “was defined by violence.”

The Taliban had vowed to disrupt the elections with “new tactics.” So-called “night letters” said that people who voted would have their index fingers cut off.

While many braved the threats, some reports suggest that voter turnout was as much as 40 percent less than the 2004 presidential election.

Even in the north, a region that has remained relatively stable, militants showed their ability to strike with consequences.

“We had to tell our people to save your [ballot] boxes and save yourselves,” the head of the country’s Independent Election Commission, Azizullah Lodin, said at a press conference on election day in Kabul.