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TALIBAN VOWS TO SABOTAGE AFGHAN ELECTORAL PREPARATIONS

AFP - 23 August 2005 Taliban insurgents vowed to derail preparations for Afghanistan's general elections next month but said they would not attack polling booths on election day to avoid civilian casualties. The United Nations, meanwhile, warned that attacks and threats had already marred preparations for the September 18 parliamentary and provincial polls, the first to be held in the war-shattered country in three decades. Two candidates, three election staff and at least five religious clerics have been killed in recent months, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said a joint report with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. Of 150 incidents of threats and violence reported, 44 had been confirmed, 57 were pending further investigation, 19 were found to be baseless and 32 could not be verified due to insufficient information, the report said on Monday. It also said that information from the provinces showed an "alarming" rise in violent attacks against candidates and electoral staff. Most of the 1,052 voter registration stations had been able to open for at least a portion of the period, although security fears and incidents had kept three stations closed. The report also said "there are a number of commanders who are attempting to dominate the political landscape and influence the electoral process". While most candidates had vowed to stay in the race despite the threats, "a number of candidates have indicated that they will not carry out any campaign activities due to concerns about their security". Purported Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi on Monday told AFP that the hardline Islamic insurgents fighting US and government troops would target election workers and their facilities. "Any project by the government or the US will be our target, even if it is the electoral sites, their vehicles, their staff and anyone affiliated with it," Hakimi said from an undisclosed location by satellite telephone. "Only to avoid a big number of civilian casualties will we not target electoral sites on the day of the election," said Hakimi. Loyalists of the Taliban, the regime ousted in the 2001 US-led invasion, and other militants have stepped up their attacks on government, military and electoral workers in recent months and have killed at least three candidates.





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