News / Asia

Candidate, Election Workers Kidnapped on Eve of Afghan Poll

Afghan officials say the Taliban has kidnapped 19 people, including a candidate and several election workers, on the eve of nationwide parliamentary polls.

The militant group claimed responsibility for the abduction of a candidate in eastern Laghman province.  Eight election officials and 10 campaign workers were also reported kidnapped in northwestern Badghis province.

Taliban insurgents have already killed at least three candidates and several campaign workers in the run-up to Saturday's vote.  The group is threatening to stage countrywide attacks, as it did during last year's presidential elections in an effort to intimidate voters.

Despite the threat of violence, Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Friday urged all Afghans to head to the polls and cast their ballots.

About 2,500 candidates are vying for 249 seats in the lower house of parliament, or wolesi jirga.

The streets of Kabul were mostly quiet Friday, as police set up extra checkpoints and stopped and searched cars traveling on the main roads.

More than 250,000 Afghan police and troops, backed by international troops, will be deployed during the election.  

Even so, election officials have said roughly 15 percent of more than 6,000 polling centers will not open due to poor security.  

NATO troops have arrested or killed several insurgents who were allegedly planning attacks on election day.

Last year's presidential election was marred by allegations of widespread fraud, with one-third of ballots cast for President Karzai thrown out.  

U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, told reporters in Islamabad Friday the parliamentary vote will likely be flawed because it was difficult to hold a completely fair election in the middle of a war.

Separately, NATO says two of its service members were killed Friday while fighting insurgents in southern Afghanistan.

The alliance said a joint Afghan-coalition force Thursday freed three prisoners who were kidnapped in Ghazni province for working with NATO and Afghan troops.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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