Foreign Observers Pulling Out of Kabul
KABUL – International election observers are preparing to leave Kabul following a string of deadly Taliban attacks in the heart of the central capital, a source said on Sunday. Brazen assaults on Serena Hotel, frequented by foreigners, and the Independent Election Commission headquarters have prompted international monitors to pull out of Kabul.
Coming a week ahead of the landmark presidential vote, slated for April 5, the attack on the IEC headquarters ended on Saturday evening with the killing of five assailants. The burqa-clad assailants fired at the commission’s office from a nearby building and clashed with security personnel for hours. Two policemen were slightly injured in the gunbattle.
Earlier in the month, two major international election observation missions left Afghanistan in the wake of the March 20 attack on the luxury Hotel. The National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) withdrew staff, leaving the European Union’s international monitoring mission the only major one to remain.
An NDI observer, Luis Maria Duarte, was among the nine people killed after four teenager attackers opened fire at the restaurant, where mostly foreigners were staying at the time. One international observer, requesting not to be named, told Pajhwok Afghan News many of the missions, including the Bangkok-based Asian Foundation for Free Elections (ANFREL), had decided to leave.
“Many of them are expected to return home in the next couple of days,” he said, voicing concern at the growing insecurity. But the EU election assessment team will stay in Afghanistan to observe the vote. “The team is here on the invitation of Afghan authorities and will carry out its work as planned,” EU chief observer Thijs Berman. (Pajhwok)