(Kabul) – Afghans voted in presidential elections amid tight security, as Taliban insurgents determined to disrupt the process unleashed a string of attacks on polling centres across the country that killed at least five people.
The first-round vote marked the culmination of a bloody election campaign that despite a large field of candidates is seen as a close race between President Ashraf Ghani and his bitter rival Abdullah Abdullah, the country´s chief executive.
Authorities placed Kabul under partial lockdown, flooding streets with troops and banning trucks from entering the city in an effort to stop would-be suicide bombers targeting residents as they cast their votes.
The Taliban, who carried out multiple bombings during the two-month election season, claimed to have conducted hundreds of attacks against Afghanistan´s “fake elections”.
Officials said five security officials had been killed and 37 civilians wounded.
“The enemy carried out 68 attacks against election sites across the country… but security forces repelled most of the attacks,” acting defence minister Asadullah Khalid said.
Compared to previous elections, the initial toll appeared relatively light, though authorities in the past have suppressed information on election day only to later give much larger numbers.
Having voted at a Kabul high school, Ghani said the most important issue was finding a leader with a mandate to bring peace to the war-torn nation.
“Our roadmap (for peace) is ready, I want the people to give us permission and legitimacy so that we pursue peace,” said Ghani, who is seeking a second five-year term.