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Violence Intensifies on Eve of Afghan Parliamentary Election

17 September 2005

Three policemen were killed and two wounded in an ambush south of Kabul Friday night, while seven guerillas were killed after they ambushed a police convoy in southern Afghanistan. Officials remain confident Sunday's elections will go on as planned, despite the surge in militant attacks.

The Afghan Foreign Ministry blamed the latest attacks on so-called enemies of Afghanistan, the phrase the government uses to describe Taleban insurgents.

Remnants of the ousted Taleban have vowed to derail Sunday's election, and have staged a series of deadly raids and ambushes in recent weeks.

Election organizers sharply condemn, the violence, but say plans for Sunday remain on track.

Jean Arnault, a senior United Nations representative in Afghanistan, spoke to reporters Saturday afternoon.

"I would say, perhaps, the only thing that mitigates our sense of outrage and indignation is that we are convinced that having failed again to make a dent in the electoral campaign, we are very confident that those extremists will also fail to disrupt polling day tomorrow," she said.

Seven candidates and at least five election workers have died since July. On Friday, suspected Taleban militants shot and killed a candidate in southern Afghanistan.

Also Friday, Taleban insurgents reportedly called for a national boycott of the election, and warned voters could be injured in attacks against foreign peacekeepers.

More than 30,000 U.S. and NATO troops, and another 100,000 Afghan soldiers are deployed throughout the country to provide security on election day.

Officials say at least 10 million people are expected to vote Sunday, Afghanistan's second democratic election in less than a year.

There are nearly 6,000 candidates for Afghanistan's 249-seat National Assembly and new provincial councils.

Organizers say the election is a critical step toward establishing the rule of law and spirit of democracy in Afghanistan.

Polls open at 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning.

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