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Taliban Violence Threatens Polls: HRW


KABUL – Insurgent-linked threats and violence against campaign workers and election officials risk undermining the April 5 presidential vote, a global rights group warned on Sunday. Human Rights Watch (HRW) referred to a March 11 statement, in which the Taliban vowed to use all force to disrupt the vote and to target all workers, activists, callers, security apparatus and offices.

The Taliban also warned the government not to use public places such as mosques and schools for the polls, suggesting these locations could be targets of attack. International humanitarian law prohibits all attacks targeting civilians and civilian structures, according to a statement from HRW. Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW, said the Taliban’s threat was as despicable as it was unlawful. “That threat highlights the responsibility of the Afghan government and its security forces to take all necessary measures to protect campaign activities and voters.”

Violent incidents already linked to election preparations include:

• On March 12, the kidnapping by unknown gunmen of four members of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) in Nangarhar province;

•   On March 12, the killing by unidentified gunmen of three elders associated with the campaign of presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah in northern Faryab province. The men were shot while returning from a funeral ceremony for the late Afghan Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim. Unidentified gunmen also warned villagers in the area not to vote;

•   On March 10, a bomb blast by unknown perpetrators apparently targeted Abdullah’s campaign office in Herat, which killed two security officers and injured four election workers;

• On March 9, an attack by unidentified gunmen that killed two campaign workers of presidential candidate Gul Agha Sherzai in Helmand;

• On March 5, a failed bomb attack by unknown perpetrators near a campaign venue in Kunduz where presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai was scheduled to speak;

• On February 19, an attack apparently targeting presidential candidate Abdullah as he was returning from a campaign rally in Nangarhar. The Taliban took responsibility for the attack;

• On February 9, an attack by unidentified gunmen that killed a tribal elder and a campaign worker of Dr. Abdullah in the Kohistanat district of Sar-i-Pul province; and

• On February 1, the killing by unidentified gunmen of two of Abdullah’s campaign workers who were shot in the city of Herat.

“The Taliban threats to use violence to derail the election process should not succeed,” Adams said. “Taliban tactics of terror and intimidation only expose their fear of the ballot box and the Afghan people’s right to choose their next government.” (Pajhwok)

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