- The Washington Times - Friday, September 16, 2005

KABUL, Afghanistan — A seventh candidate running for Afghanistan’s parliament was killed yesterday following weeks of campaigning marred by assassinations and the occasional firefight between Afghan militants and international forces.

Abdul Hadi from the southern Afghan province of Helmand was killed early yesterday morning, according to local officials, who said the gunmen who shot Mr. Hadi outside his home likely were Taliban militants.

“The gunmen called at his house and when he came out they opened fire and killed him,” said Helmand province spokesman Mohammad Wali Alizai.

The Taliban ruled most of Afghanistan with an iron grip from the mid-1990s until their overthrow by U.S. forces in November 2001.

A spokesman for the Taliban, Abdul Latif Hakimi, told local and international news outlets that Mr. Hadi was killed by the Taliban because “he was an American supporter” and a candidate for parliament.

Mr. Hadi’s killing brings the death toll for parliamentary candidates to seven in the weeks leading up to tomorrow’s elections.

The Taliban spokesman also warned voters to stay away from the polls, as they could be innocent victims in attacks.

The Taliban says it will not attack any of the 6,000 polling stations nationwide, but it plans to target U.S. and other international forces on the day of the election.

Security for this year’s elections, as opposed to last year’s presidential vote, will be provided by some 100,000 members of the Afghan national army and other Afghan security forces.

The 20,000 U.S. troops and 10,000 coalition forces from 23 other nations will be on alert in case they are asked by authorities to assist during the voting.

An estimated 12.4 million voters nationwide will pick from among 5,800 candidates, according to Afghanistan’s Joint Electoral Management Body.

Two separate elections are scheduled for Sunday: federal elections for the national parliament, also known as the Wolesi Jirga, with 249 seats, and races for local leaders in Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

Yesterday, all was relatively calm in the capital.

A downtown market was bustling with food vendors and clothing peddlers, while men sat in rows prostrating themselves at a nearby mosque.

Otherwise, the city seemed eerily quiet without the ubiquitous slow-moving cars and vans equipped with bullhorns bellowing the names and agendas of candidates.

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