Polls close and counting begins in Afghanistan | world | Hindustan Times
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Polls close and counting begins in Afghanistan

Taliban threats appeared to dampen voter turnout in the militant south on Thursday when Afghans chose the next president for their deeply troubled country.

world Updated: Aug 20, 2009 21:00 IST

Taliban threats appeared to dampen voter turnout in the militant south on Thursday when Afghans chose the next president for their deeply troubled country. Insurgents launched scattered rocket, suicide and bomb attacks that closed some polling sites.

After ten hours of voting, including a last-minute, one-hour extension, election workers began to count the millions of ballots cast across the country. Initial results weren't expected until Saturday.

Low turnout in the south would harm President Hamid Karzai's re-election chances and boost the standing of his top challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. Turnout in the north appeared to be stronger, a good sign for Abdullah.

International officials have predicted an imperfect election, Afghanistan's second-ever direct presidential vote, but expressed hope that Afghans would accept it as legitimate, a key component of President Barack Obama's war strategy.

Taliban militants, though, pledged to disrupt the vote and circulated threats that those who cast ballots will be punished.

A voting official in Kandahar, the south's largest city and the Taliban's spiritual birthplace, said voting appeared to be 40 per cent lower than during the country's 2004 presidential election.