Polling station blasts rock Afghanistan on election day

KABUL, Sept. 28, 2019 (Xinhua) -- Voters wait to cast their ballots at a polling center in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, Sept. 28, 2019. Afghanistan held presidential election on Saturday.

Kabul,  At least two blasts have hit polling stations in Kabul during the Afghan presidential election on Saturday, amid threats from the Taliban to disrupt the voting process.

There were also controlled bomb detonations in the south of the country as Afghans cast their votes on the election day, Efe news reported.

At around 9 am, about two hours after polling began, explosions went off at two polling stations in Kabul.

There were no reports of any casualties, Firdaws Faramarz, a spokesman for the capital’s police, told Efe.

“The first one was a sonic bomb and only produced a big boom and the second also had no casualties,” he said.

Kabul looked like a ghost town on Saturday, taken over by security forces, with blocked-off roads and checkpoints every few meters.

In the southern city of Kandahar, security forces have defused 31 improvised explosive devices and detonated several mines in a controlled manner since Friday night, Bahir Ahmadi, a spokesman for Kandahar’s provincial governor, told Efe.

“No casualties, no one is killed or injured,” he said.

Around 9.6 million Afghans, 35% of them women, are eligible to vote in what is seen as a key election.

The new executive is expected to deal with the withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan and the peace process with the Taliban.

Voting began at 7 am in 4,942 of the 7,385 polling stations in areas under government control, according to the Independent Electoral Commission, and is scheduled to continue until 3 pm.

The election was held amid threats of violence by the Taliban insurgency, who view the ballot as a foreign conspiracy and have carried out several attacks in recent weeks.

The government has deployed 72,000 members of the security forces and put another 30,000 on alert to monitor the voting process, according to data from the interior ministry.

Current President Ashraf Ghani, current chief executive and former anti-Taliban resistance leader Abdullah Abdullah, and former warlord and ex-prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, are among the favorites in the fourth elections in the country since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.