The presidential election in Afghanistan has been overshadowed by several attacks nationwide. At least three civilians were killed and dozens injured on Saturday. The polling stations were opened for two hours longer due to long queues of voters.
President Ashraf Ghani called on the 9.6 million registered voters to cast their votes despite threats from the radical Islamic Taliban.
According to Afghan government information around 72,000 soldiers were deployed on approximately 5,000 polling stations. In the capital Kabul a partial curfew was imposed. Trucks were not let into the city for fear of suicide bombings.
Three civilians were killed and dozens injured in Afghanistan
Few hours after the election began, there were attacks at polling stations throughout the country. The Afghan television station Tolo News reported that three civilians killed and 27 injured during the electoral process.
Ghani said, after casting his vote in a school in the capital Kabul, peace was the greatest wish of the Afghan people. He called on the Afghans to vote to give his government the mission and the legitimacy to push ahead with the already-prepared road map for peace.
The Taliban had threatened with attacks on polling stations before the election. During the two-month election campaign, Taliban fighters had bombed presidential candidate events with attacks.
Last week, 26 people were killed in a Taliban attack on an election campaign held by President Ghani in central Parwan.
In total, 18 candidates participated in the election. Incumbent Ghani and his arch rival Abdullah Abdullah were favorites.
Results are not expected before 19 October. If none of the candidates receive more than 50 percent of the votes in the first attempt, a runoff is scheduled for November.
Observers had expected a low turnout in the face of threats of attacks, but also reports of electoral fraud. Nevertheless, long queues formed on polling day before the polling stations. Many Afghans said the ballot was correct as they held their ink-marked fingers in the air.
Former Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta, however, lamented electoral fraud. President Ghani controls all state institutions, including the electoral commission, Spanta informed the media.
The democratic reform process was described by the former diplomat as a failure. The US Embassy in Kabul also expressed concern on numerous complaints about security, lack of fairness and fraud.
A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed that any violence directed against the electoral process, including on polling stations, campaign workers and voters will be unacceptable.
The presidential election in Afghanistan was originally scheduled to take place in April but has been postponed twice. Reasons for this included the now interrupted peace negotiations between the United States and the Taliban.