Afghans cast ballots in presidential runoff
KABUL – Votes were being tallied in Afghanistan after a presidential runoff election on Saturday that saw scattered violence and a more subdued turnout among women than the first round of balloting two months ago.
Reports from the provinces indicated that Taliban insurgents again tried to disrupt voting outside of Afghanistan’s heavily guarded cities, launching attacks that killed 14 civilians and 26 Afghan security personnel, officials said. A rocket slammed into a home in eastern Laghman province, killing four people, including two children, Afghanistan’s Tolo news channel reported. Officials in Herat province told reporters that the Taliban cut off the fingers of 11 people for voting.
The Afghan Interior Ministry recorded 150 security incidents across the country, although most were small-scale attacks.
In much of Afghanistan, however, voters and officials reported a relatively smooth election day as the country again managed to avoid major chaos in the months-long contest to select President Hamid Karzai’s successor. Election officials said that turnout was more than 7 million out of 13 million eligible voters, close to that of the first round, although lines in Kabul seemed far shorter and anecdotal reports suggested that fewer women cast ballots because of security concerns.
Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah was considered the front-runner based on his strong showing in the first round of voting in April, but ex-Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani was believed to have closed the gap in the final weeks. Millions of ballots were being counted by hand, and results weren’t expected for several weeks.