Nearly 170 Afghans were killed or wounded in poll-related violence on Saturday, officials said, as the legislative election turned chaotic with many polling centres opening hours late — or not at all — due to technical glitches and lack of staff.
In the latest attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a Kabul polling centre, killing at least 15 people and wounding 20, police said, taking the number of casualties across the Afghan capital to 19 dead and nearly 100 wounded.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but the Taliban said earlier it had carried out more than 300 attacks on the “fake election” across the war-torn country.
Violence also disrupted voting in the northern city of Kunduz where a health official said three people died and 39 were wounded after more than 20 rockets rained down on the provincial capital.
An Independent Election Commission (IEC) employee was killed and seven others were missing after the Taliban attacked a polling centre several kilometres from Kunduz city, destroying ballot boxes, provincial IEC director Mohammad Rasoul Omar said.
Eight explosions were recorded in the eastern province of Nangarhar, with two people killed and five wounded, the provincial governor’s spokesman said.
Initial figures showed at least 1.5 million voters turned up at polling centres in 27 provinces, election organisers said -- a fraction of the nearly nine million voter registrations. Many voters waited hours for the doors to open.
Most polling sites opened late after teachers employed to handle the voting process failed to show up on time, said the IEC.
The election commission, which has been skewered over its shambolic preparations for the long-delayed ballot, said they would extend voting until Sunday for 371 polling centres after hiccups with voter registration lists, biometric verification devices and staffing.
University student Mohammad Alem said he felt “frustrated” after spending more than three hours trying to vote in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, only to discover his name was not on the registration list.
“There also were some problems with the biometric devices because they were already running out of charge,” he said.