Afghanistan goes to polls amidst tight security

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Kabul, Aug 20 (ANI): Polling began across Afghanistan on Thursday for a new President and Provincial Council Members.

Around 17 million voters are eligible to cast their votes.

According to initial reports, a large number of people are turning out to cast their vote. President Hamid Karzai is running for a second term.

Voting, which started at 8:00 a.m. (Indian time), will continue till 5:00 p.m. at more than six thousand five hundred polling centres.

While 41 candidates are in the presidential election fray, more than three thousand candidates are contesting the provincial council polls.

Some of the prominent presidential candidates are President Hamid Karzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.

As he voted, Karzai said a first-round victory would be "in the interest of the nation".

The other two main contenders are independent candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and ex-World Bank official Ramazan Bashardost.

Around a thousand international observers from various organizations have been pressed into service to monitor the voting, the BBC reports.

Tight security arrangements have been made to avoid any kind of untoward incident as militants have threatened to disrupt the polls.

Militants have made repeated threats against the polls and more than 25 people have been killed in bombings and attacks in the last two days. The threat of a militant attack is particularly severe and expected in Southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban holds sway.

Some 300,000 Afghan and international troops have been deployed, but early on rocket attacks were reported in a number of cities.

The small rocket attacks happened in cities in Helmand, Kandahar and Ghazni provinces and a small blast occurred in Kabul.

The Interior Ministry has said about a third of the country is at high risk of attack and that no polling stations will be open in eight districts under Taliban control. (ANI)

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