Violence greets Afghan voters, no big attack feared

PANJWAII DISTRICT, Afghanistan — Taliban threats of a massive attack during Saturday’s parliamentary elections in Afghanistan failed to materialize but the threat alone appeared to keep many voters at home.

PANJWAII DISTRICT, Afghanistan — Taliban threats of a massive attack during Saturday’s parliamentary elections in Afghanistan failed to materialize but the threat alone appeared to keep many voters at home.

Overall, election day and the days preceding it were quieter this year than during last year’s presidential election, yet more than a dozen rockets and bombs went off in Kandahar city and Afghans trickled into polling centres to cast their ballots.

Kandahar Governor Tooryalai Wesa, an Afghan-Canadian from British Columbia, survived a bombing attempt as he urged residents to get out and vote.

Resident Haji Zahir said he has never voted, and never will.

“It is just a game of money, everybody fills their pockets,” Zahir told The Canadian Press. “After the election we will not see the candidates here in Kandahar. What did the previous candidates do in five years?”

For nine years, he said, the city has suffered.

“Why should I get my finger cut off or get killed for nothing?” he said, referring to insurgent threats to cut off the finger of anyone bearing the ink stain proving they cast a ballot.

In the Panjwaii district, southwest of Kandahar city where Canadian efforts are now concentrated, insurgents tried to set up a road block to prevent voters from reaching polling centres.

There were sporadic firefights throughout the day between Taliban and pro-government forces, and some IED and rocket attacks. Two children were injured by an insurgent rocket and medically evacuated for treatment.

Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner, commander of Canadian troops in Kandahar, said election day was relatively quiet — “almost a normal day here in Kandahar province,” the war ravaged region that gave birth to the Taliban.

“It’s fairly quiet across the province. There’s been a few incidents,” Milner said.

“I don’t know exactly how many have gone out to vote which I think is really what we want to see, but I’m very confident that the security measures put in place… allowed for safe elections.”

Many of the Panjwaii residents who voted did so in the safer confines of the city, scrubbing the election ink off their fingers before returning to the district.

Resident Matiullah Agha said people went to Kandahar city because security was not good enough in the area.

“Many people in Panjwaii didn’t come to vote; they are scared of the Taliban,” Agha said. “I was scared while voting. I disguised myself, because I know there are many Taliban spies here.”

The streets of Kandahar city were closed to all vehicles except those bearing a special election sign, and shops were also closed.

But in the Dand district, which lies between the city and Panjwaii province, and where Canada’s Task Force Kandahar unveiled its village-by-village counter-insurgency strategy last year, most shops remained open and there were crowds of voters seen at some polling stations.

Resident Abdul Khalik said there were some rocket attacks but he and his entire family voted.

One of the biggest surprises came in the Zhari district, west of Kandahar city, a violent insurgent stronghold where Taliban unleashed co-ordinated attacks on Canadian bases during last year’s presidential vote. Voters lined up at some polling stations where very few ballots were cast a year ago.

“People are fed up with the Taliban, that’s why they’re coming out more and more, so they can get rid of the Taliban,” businessman Saleh Naeem said.

Observers said at least 24 people were killed in election-related violence preceding the vote, including four candidates.

Despite his close call, Wesa continued to urge voters.

“The enemy wants the election to fail, so if you want the insurgents out of your land, you’ll have to come out and vote,” the provincial governor said.

Militants attacked most major cities with rockets, the first in the capital of Kabul before dawn. A rocket in northern Baghlan province killed two civilians and there were scattered attacks on polling stations, but Afghan officials said they did not hamper voting.

“There are no reports of major incidents,” Afghan Election Commission Chairman Fazel Ahmad Manawi told reporters.

For western nations who have staked their exit strategy from Afghanistan on improved governance, Saturday’s vote was a test of the Afghan security forces who were responsible for security and of the electoral system.

Last year’s presidential elections were marred more by corruption than insurgent violence and fake voter cards were discovered in Afghanistan ahead of Saturday’s vote.

Milner cautioned against judging the vote by western standards.

“I think that’s where us westerners need to be a little bit more patient,” said the Canadian commander. “Our first thoughts will be ’Is there fraud?’ and all of that, and I think our definitions of that sometimes are a little bit different. I’d say give them some time.”

Full preliminary results are not expected until the end of the month and final results in late October.

– With files from the Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer College (Contributed photo)
RDC tuitions to go up 7%

Tuition increase the maximum allowed under provincial rules

This unicorn was stolen from the small community of Delia, northeast of Drumheller on Friday and was recovered, with its bronze horn broken off, on Saturday. RCMP are looking for information on the suspects.
(Photo from RCMP)
Unicorn statue stolen from Delia recovered

Statue found with horn broken off in field about 15 km from Delia

(Advocate file photo)
Lacombe man whose manslaughter sentence was rejected by judge has new lawyer

Judge rejected proposed seven-year sentence for manslaughter in connection with 2019 homicide

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a news conference at Rideau cottage in Ottawa, on Friday, March 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Liberals to release federal budget with eye on managing crisis, post-pandemic growth

OTTAWA — The federal government will this afternoon unveil its spending plans… Continue reading

Patches are seen on the arm and shoulder of a corrections officer in the segregation unit at the Fraser Valley Institution for Women during a media tour, in Abbotsford, B.C., on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. Correctional Service Canada says three inmates at Fraser Valley Institution recently tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Drumheller Institution inmate dies in custody

Inmate’s April 15 death under investigation

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

In this Feb. 24, 2020, photo, the Olympics rings are reflected on the window of a hotel restaurant as a server with a mask sets up a table, in the Odaiba section of Tokyo. The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with less than 1% vaccinated. This of course is spilling over to concerns about the postponed Tokyo Olympics that open in just over three months.(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
Will Japanese Olympians be vaccinated ahead of the public?

TOKYO — The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with… Continue reading

PSG's Kylian Mbappe, right, greets Bayern's Lucas Hernandez at the end of the Champions League, second leg, quarterfinal soccer match between Paris Saint Germain and Bayern Munich at the Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris, France, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
PSG, Bayern the big names missing from Super League plan

DÜSSELDORF, Germany — The plan for the new Super League soccer competition… Continue reading

In this image released by Paramount Pictures, Marion Cotillard, left, and Brad Pitt appear in a scene from "Allied." (Daniel Smith/Paramount Pictures via AP)
Leo Carax’s ‘Annette’ to open Cannes Film Festival

Leo Carax’s “Annette,” starring Marion Cotillard and Adam Driver, will open the… Continue reading

From left, Producer Doug Mitchell, actor Chris Hemsworth and director George Miller attend at a press conference to announce the new "Mad Max" film at Fox Studios Australia in Sydney, Monday, April 19, 2021. (Mick Tsikas/AAP Image via AP)
‘Mad Max’ prequel shot in Outback to be released in 2023

SYDNEY, Australia — A prequel to the “Mad Max” movie franchise starring… Continue reading

In this Feb. 1, 2021 file photo, emissions from a coal-fired power plant are silhouetted against the setting sun in Independence, Mo. President Joe Biden faces a vexing task as he convenes a virtual climate summit on Thursday. He is expected to present a nonbinding but symbolic goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that will have a tangible impact not only on climate change efforts in the U.S. but throughout the world. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
Biden pressed on emissions goal as climate summit nears

WASHINGTON — When President Joe Biden convenes a virtual climate summit on… Continue reading

Women wearing masks wait near an advertisement ahead of the Auto Shanghai 2021 show in Shanghai on Sunday, April 18, 2021. Automakers from around the world are showcasing their latest products this week in the world's biggest market for auto vehicles. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
VW, Ford unveil SUVs at China auto show under virus controls

SHANGHAI — Volkswagen, Ford and Chinese brands unveiled new SUVs for China… Continue reading

Investigators from the Vancouver Police Department were in Chilliwack Saturday, collecting evidence connected to a double homicide. (file photo)
Police investigate shooting death of man outside downtown Vancouver restaurant

Vancouver police say one man was killed in what they believe was… Continue reading

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start registering people 18 years and older for COVID-19 vaccines

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government says it’s inviting people 18 years… Continue reading

Most Read