Taliban threatens Afghan poll

Taliban-linked rebels killed three NATO soldiers, two election workers and five security guards in separate attacks in Afghanistan Thursday, two days ahead of a parliamentary vote, officials said.

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The Taliban has also threatened to attack polling centres during Saturday’s election, only the second parliamentary polls in Afghanistan since the Islamic militia was removed from power in 2001.

The foreign soldiers, part of a 150,000-strong US-led force, were killed in separate attacks in southern Afghanistan, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said. It gave no further details.

According to an AFP count, the soldiers’ deaths brings to 507 the number of international troops killed in the Afghan war so far this year. The total last year was 521.

In a separate attack Taliban fighters killed five security guards in Ghazni, also in the south, an official said.

Militants attacked a security post at a road construction site, killing the privately employed guards, provincial spokesman Ismail Jahangir told AFP.

Two other guards were wounded and another two missing, he said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility in a telephone call to AFP, saying the missing guards had been involved in planning the attack and were with the militants.

There was no claim of responsibility for the ISAF deaths.

According to a statement issued by the United Nations, which gave no further details, two election workers employed by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) were killed in northern Balk province’s Charbolak district.

The UN statement referred to a press conference in Kabul at which the head of the IEC, Professor Fazal Ahmad Manawi, confirmed the killing of two of his staff. The statement gave no further details.

Elsewhere, the northern province of Kunduz overnight, eight militants were killed in a NATO air strike, the military said.

ISAF said the strike and a ground operation targeted the Taliban district commander who was “actively planning attacks” during Saturday’s parliamentary elections.

Abdul Wahid Omarkhail, the chief of Chahar Dara district, where the strike happened, put the death toll at 12.

In the volatile Arghandab district of southern Kandahar province, police said six Taliban were killed and another 16 wounded in a raid on their hideout.

Kandahar, the Taliban’s heartland, is seen as the one of the areas worst hit by the insurgency.

Security forces said all routes into Kandahar city, the provincial capital, would be closed to traffic on election day.

Around 10.5 million Afghans are eligible to elect 249 members of the lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga.

A Taliban spokesman said Thursday that polling centres would be attacked on election day, with election workers and security forces the primary targets.

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