Afghans vow to defy Taliban threats and vote as election day arrives

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In Afghanistan any form of transport is welcome to carry ballot boxes and other voting material to remote areas.

Residents volunteered their donkeys and mules to take election material through the rugged Panjshir Valley, one day before the country’s presidential poll.

Saturday’s vote follows a violent campaigning period, and Taliban insurgents have vowed to disrupt voting with bombings and assassinations.

Some observers say many are ready to defy them.

“The people of Afghanistan are more committed to go to the polling station for many reasons,” said Shukria Barikzai, Afghan women’s rights activist and member of parliament. “Number one they want to say no to the Taliban, the second they want to say yes to democracy and to the election, and the third they want to have better government for a better choice for a better future. So that is why the people of Afghanistan will not be thinking much about threats, and particularly security threats.”

An assertion contradicted by Kabul resident Khoda Dad, who said: “People are scared and worried. Those who go to voting centres are not very comfortable. They are scared of the situation.”

But amid tight security, many say they will turn out nonetheless to elect the successor to Hamid Karzai who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

On Friday German photographer Anja Niedringhaus of the Associated Press was shot dead in eastern Afghanistan, reportedly by a uniformed police officer. The 48-year-old’s work was internationally renowned and she won many awards.

Her Canadian colleague Kathy Gannon, 60, was wounded – reportedly in the hand and chest – but was said to be stable in hospital. She has covered Pakistan and Afghanistan for three decades and is based in Islamabad.

The pair had been covering ballot distribution in Khost province on the eve of the election, travelling in a convoy with full police and army protection.

Reporters Without Borders said it was part of a terror campaign to make observers flee and strip the election of credibility.

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