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Afghan Campaign for Presidential Runoff Starts Under Taliban Threats

By Sean Maroney
24 October 2009

Taliban insurgents are threatening to target Afghans who vote in the country's November 7 presidential runoff. Afghan election officials are working to improve security while minimizing fraud.

The lead up to Afghanistan's second round of voting is beginning much like the first round under the Taliban's threats of violence.

Campaigning officially began Saturday in the runoff election between incumbent President Hamid Karzai and top rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.

In a statement released Saturday, the Taliban denounced the election as an "American process" and vowed to disrupt it.

The country's Independent Election Commission spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor says that so far, the preparations are going smoothly.

"The preparations for the second round [are] going on," he said. "Until now, we don't have any specific difficulties or challenges, and we are going to go ahead."

Massive fraud in the August 20 election led officials to call for a runoff.

On Friday, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, said he believes there will be less fraud this time around because only two candidates will be on the ballot and more international teams will be in place to monitor.

But security is one of the top concerns as election officials hurry to deliver supplies to polling stations before the harsh winter weather cuts off access.

International officials have pledged the services of coalition forces in order to ensure voter safety.

Reports from the first round of voting detailed a number of violent attacks by the Taliban, including rocket fire and the amputations of ink-stained fingers on voters' hands.

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