Taliban death threats hang over Afghan elections

Taliban insurgents appear to be making good on threats to kill candidates in Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections, adding a grim dimension to the ambitions of political hopefuls in the war-torn country.

In recent weeks, three candidates and at least seven campaign workers have been killed, and many others kidnapped and injured, in attacks blamed on the Taliban, according to officials.

More than 2,500 candidates will contest 249 seats in the lower house of the Afghan parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, in the country’s second parliamentary elections scheduled for September 18.

The attacks are part of the Taliban’s plan to disrupt the poll, said a spokesman for the group, deriding the election as “a process orchestrated by the foreign occupiers, for and in the interest of the foreign occupiers”.

“We urge people not to participate in the election. Everything and everyone affiliated with the election is our target — candidates, security forces, campaigners, election workers, voters are all our targets,” spokesmen Zabiullah Mujahid said, speaking from an undisclosed location.

“Such elections don’t have any legitimacy for us, since our leader Mullah Omar has already called for a boycott,” Mullah Saheb Khan said.

As the vote nears, and the pace and ferocity of the attacks intensifies, election officials have conceded that security in some areas is so poor they will not be able to get out the vote.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC), which oversees the poll, has said that about four percent of the polling centres, mainly in the south and east where the war is fiercest, will not open because security cannot be guaranteed.

Candidates and their supporters have been bombed, kidnapped, shot and, in one case in troubled Ghazni province south of Kabul, beheaded.