Protests in Kabul over Afghan election ‘fraud’

KABUL: Supporters of Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah held street protests in Kabul on Saturday as fears grow of unrest erupting over alleged fraud in the election one week ago.

Abdullah has boycotted the vote count, pitching Afghanistan into a political crisis as NATO combat troops withdraw from a 13-year war against Taliban insurgents.

The former foreign minister accused his poll rival Ashraf Ghani, outgoing President Hamid Karzai and election authorities of all committing fraud to deny him victory.

Reports of the ongoing vote count suggest that Ghani is well ahead in a surprise comeback after finishing behind Abdullah in the first-round election on April 5.

The protests began peacefully as scores of activists marched through Kabul streets, shouting slogans and carrying banners that read “Fraudsters should be put on trial” and “We will defend our vote to the last drop of our blood”.

An early morning suicide attack in the city targeted Masoom Stanekzai, a senior official at the government body responsible for exploring peace talks with the Taliban.

Police said Stanekzai escaped the blast uninjured, but that one civilian was killed and three wounded.

The UN mission this week warned that if candidates “abandon the legal process and framework and appeal directly to supporters (it) could incite violence”.

“Some people have already called for civil disobedience,” it warned.