August 23, 2009 in Nation/World

Afghan vote observers report finger-cuttings

Taliban threatened to maim anyone with telltale dye
Laura King Los Angeles Times
Associated Press photo

An Afghan voter shows her finger to a friend after casting her ballot at a polling station in a school in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday.
(Full-size photo)

KABUL, Afghanistan – The shadowy threat circulated in city streets and village bazaars in the days before Afghanistan’s historic presidential vote: The Taliban would cut off the ink-stained fingers of those who had cast a ballot.

On Saturday, election observers disclosed that they had confirmed two such cases in the south of Afghanistan, and were investigating a third in an eastern province.

The two known finger amputations took place in Kandahar province, where the Taliban movement was born. Officials asked that the district not be disclosed because it would endanger the observer who reported the grisly act. The case under investigation was in an Afghan province bordering Pakistan’s volatile tribal areas, where many insurgent groups are based.

The voters in question, whose fingers were stained with telltale purple ink, were attacked by insurgents soon after voting Thursday in presidential and provincial assembly elections, said Nader Nadery, who heads the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, the country’s premier domestic election-monitoring group. No further details about the attack were disclosed.

The south of Afghanistan, where insurgents and Western troops have clashed fiercely this summer, was considered the most dangerous place to vote. Despite intensive efforts by U.S. and other Western forces to safeguard the balloting, many people in the south stayed home.

An overall turnout figure has not been compiled, but it will be a major factor in determining the vote’s legitimacy.

Incumbent President Hamid Karzai faced three main rivals and more than two dozen other contenders in his bid for re-election. Preliminary results are to be announced Tuesday.

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