Polling ends in Afghanistan, 50 percent voter turnout despite violence, say officials

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Kabul, Aug.20 (ANI): Polling was extended by an hour in Afghanistan's second presidential election on Thursday and concluded a short while go. Officials said there was a historic 50 percent voter turnout, notwithstanding violence in the southern and northern parts of the country.

Despite a huge military presence, the day saw militants wantonly attempting to disrupt the polls even as some 300,000 Afghan and international troops patrolled trying to prevent the attacks.

The election followed a lively campaign period in which dozens of candidates are vying for the presidency.

The violent incidents across the country included an attack on a town in Baghlan, northern Afghanistan, which prevented the opening of polling stations, the BBC reported.

Foreign news agencies said at least eight died in ensuing clashes with police. The Taliban also set fire to a bus on the Kandahar-Kabul Highway in Ghazni, after offloading passengers and the driver, reportedly as punishment for violating a Taliban ban on using the road. Rockets hit houses in Khost and Kandahar provinces killed two women and several children. A civilian car hit a roadside bomb, killing one person and injuring three in Khost.

Two suicide bombers on a motorbike in Gardez, Paktia province, were killed before hitting their target, police said.

In northern Baghlan province, a district police chief was killed when Taliban militants attacked a police post.

In Kabul, the bodies of two alleged militants were recovered after a gun battle with police in a residential district - police said they were suicide bombers but it is unclear whether they blew themselves up or were shot dead.

The polls - which also see voters electing members to provincial councils - are the first organised primarily by the Afghans themselves.

Seventeen million voters are eligible to vote. Polls opened at 7 a.m. local time and concluded at 5 p.m. local time. As well as presidential polls, voters choosing between 3,000 candidates for 420 seats in provincial councils

Official preliminary results are not expected for at least two weeks. (ANI)

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