Violence increases as Afghans prepare to vote

Gunfire and explosions reverberated through Kabul today on the eve of the presidential election after three gunmen forced a shoot-out in a bank.

The men all died when police stormed the building.



The attack came a day after more than 20 people were killed in attacks across the country, including a suicide blast in Kabul as the Taliban attempted to carry out their threat to disrupt the election.



In a sign of how difficult preparations have been, Afghanistan's chief electoral officer said that 20 per cent of ballot papers and boxes had not yet been delivered to voting sites less than 24 hours before polls open at 7am tomorrow. Daoud Ali Najafi said Afghan army helicopters would be used to deliver them to insecure and difficult-to-reach regions.



The Interior Ministry has said that about a third of Afghanistan is at high risk of militant attack. No polling stations will open in eight Afghan districts under control of militants. Preliminary results of the presidential election should be announced sometime on Saturday evening, he said.



In today's attack the three armed men took over a branch of the Pashtani bank in a section of Kabul's old city still in ruins from the country's 1990s civil war.



Police surrounded the building, exchanging gunfire with the attackers. The sound of scattered gunfire and small explosions reverberated through the city for several hours.



Police eventually stormed the building and killed the men.



US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that the rise in insurgent violence in Afghanistan reflected a deliberate campaign to intimidate voters.



Attacks nationwide have increased in recent days from a daily average of about 32 to 48, said a spokesman for the Nato-led force. Even with the increase, he said that insurgents do not have the ability to widely disrupt voting at the country's 6,500 or so polling sites.



"When you're looking purely at statistics ... they're not going to be able to attack even 1 percent of the entire polling sites in this country," he said.



UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged all Afghans to vote and said that by participating in the election they will help "bring fresh vigour to the country's political life, and ultimately reaffirm their commitment to contribute to the peace and prosperity of their nation."



The next president will face challenges on several fronts: the rising Taliban insurgency, internal political divisions, ethnic tensions, unemployment, the country's drug trade and corruption.



Current president Hamid Karzai is favourite, but if he does not get more than half the vote he and the second-place finisher will face off in an October run-off.



Fearing that violence may dampen turnout, the Foreign Ministry asking news organisations to avoid "broadcasting any incidence of violence" on election day "to ensure the wide participation of the Afghan people." The statement did not spell out any penalties for those who do not comply.



The English version said media "are requested" to follow the guidelines. The version in the Afghan language Dari said broadcasting news or video from a "terrorist attack" was "strictly forbidden."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine