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Bomb Destroys Truck Carrying Afghan Ballot Boxes, Kills 3

A roadside bomb in Afghanistan has destroyed a truck carrying eight boxes of ballots cast in the country's presidential election and killed three people.

Sunday's blast in the northern province of Kunduz came a day after about seven million people voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Police said the truck was carrying the ballots from polling places to Kunduz city.

The three killed were a driver, a policeman and a member of the country's Independent Election Commission.

Officials described Saturday's voting as mostly violence-free with no major attacks - even as at least 20 people were killed in scattered bombings, rocket attacks and gun battles.

A member of the Afghan parliament, Shukria Baraekzai, said the voting was a rebuff of the Taliban and its opposition to the election.

"The way the Afghans were participating in the election, the turnout of the peoples in the polling stations, women and men in bad weather condition, in an extreme high security threat, that was a fantastic slap on the face of enemy of Afghanistan and exactly a big punch on the face of those whom believed Afghanistan is not ready for democracy.''

Mr. Karzai, constitutionally barred from seeking a third term, praised his country's citizens who defied the Taliban's threats and came out in large numbers to vote.

He said their participation in the polls "made our beloved country proud and successful."

Some polling stations ran out of ballots due to the high turnout Saturday for the country's first democratic transfer of power.

Security was tight because Taliban militants threatened to disrupt the vote. More than 6,200 polling stations opened for voting, but a couple hundred were closed because of security concerns.

The special U.N. representative to Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, praised Afghan voters for the turnout "despite the threats and intimidations" they had received from insurgents.

U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement congratulating the millions of Afghans who voted in what he called the "historic" elections. He also paid tribute to Americans who have "sacrificed so much" to make the vote possible. Mr. Obama said the election was critical to securing Afghanistan's democratic future as well as continued international support.

Preliminary results are expected later this month, and a final tally is due May 14. A second round of voting will be needed if none of the eight candidates receives more than half the vote.

Three front-runners were among eight presidential candidates: Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank official; former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul; and Abdullah Abdullah, also a former foreign minister. Mr. Karzai has been in power since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.

Some 450 provincial government seats were at stake as well.

The lead-up to the election was fraught with violence. Taliban militants had threatened to kill anyone voting and had already carried out a number of bomb and gun attacks.

Afghan officials say they deployed hundreds of thousands of security forces to protect the country's 12 million eligible voters.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the voter turnout "demonstrates to the world that the Afghan people want to determine their own future."

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rassmussen said every vote in the Afghan election was "a vote for democracy."

The International Security Assistance Force congratulated Afghanistan on the election, saying "the Afghan people have chosen their future of progress and opportunity."

The U.N. Security Council commended the "participation and courage of the Afghan people to cast their ballot despite the threat and intimidation by the Taliban and other extremist and terrorist groups."

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