Afghanistan's chief electoral officer said voter turnout in the key presidential elections had been high amid sporadic reports of violence. However, election observers have reported a "patchy" turnout across the country as a whole.
Speaking at a press conference in Kabul Thursday, Afghanistan's chief electoral officer said voter turnout was "very good" and that there were no major incidents of violence. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also hailed the vote as a "success" in security terms.
Polling hours were extended in some parts of the country so voters queuing outside polling centers could cast their votes.
But following a series of attacks and attempts by militants to disrupt the polls, election observers said voter turnout was patchy. They saw relatively high voter turnout in the northern and central provinces, but low participation in the south and southeastern areas.
Official voter turnout figures have yet to be released.
Security forces reportedly exchanged fire this morning with three suspected Taliban suicide bombers in eastern Kabul, police sources have reported. A Taliban spokesman later confirmed that the three men were carrying out an operation as part of the Taliban's strategy to disrupt polling.
Election day unrest has not been limited to the capital.
Shortly after polls opened, there was a salvo of rockets fired into Kandahar, the symbolic heart of the Taliban and the hometown of the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Omar. There have also been rocket attacks in the more unstable regions, such as Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.
In the northern town of Baghlan, Taliban militants launched a multi-pronged assault that sparked heavy clashes. The fighting resulted in the deaths of up to 22 militants and succeeded in preventing Afghan citizens from voting, government officials said.
Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network and based in the troubled Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan observing the election process, told FRANCE 24 that voting in the main city of Gardez was initially brisk.
But following a suicide bomb attack around 200 meters from a polling station, voter turnout fell-off. Ruttig also reported that in the rural areas around the city, the Taliban were stopping people from going to the polls.
Date created : 2009-08-20