19 dead, 170 injured after multiple blasts rock Kabul in election day violence

Afghan security personnel stand guard on the day of the parliamentary election in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. (AP/Rahmat Gul)
Updated 20 October 2018

19 dead, 170 injured after multiple blasts rock Kabul in election day violence

  • Around 70,000 security forces have been deployed to protect polling centers across the war-torn country
  • Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi confirmed another two explosions near polling centers

KABUL: A suicide bomber blew himself up in the Afghan capital on Saturday, killing at least 15 people as voting concluded in parliamentary elections that were overshadowed by the threat of attacks and serious organizational problems.

Voting should have been concluded by the time the attacker struck in an area to the north of Kabul, but polling stations were kept open longer than normal to cope with large numbers of people who had been unable to vote.

Ten civilians and five police officers were killed when the bomber tried to enter a polling station and more than 25 were wounded, a senior security official said.

The attack appeared to have been the most serious of a day marked by a series of smaller-scale incidents that caused dozens of casualties across the country.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

More than 130 Afghans have been wounded in the violence, officials said. Most of the casualties were in Kabul, acting health ministry spokesman Mohibullah Zeer said, after the Taliban warned voters to boycott the ballot "to protect their lives".

Taliban militants have issued a series of statements telling people not to take part in what they consider a foreign-imposed process and warning election centres may be attacked.

Wider election concerns have centred on technical and organisational problems with biometric voter-registration equipment, polling stations not opening on time, missing election materials and delays forcing lengthy waits.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC), the body overseeing the ballot, said voting hours would be extended in some centres to cope with demand and some polling stations, which had not opened at all, would be open on Sunday.

Survivors: Up to 117 migrants missing in capsizing off Libya

Updated 19 min 55 sec ago

Survivors: Up to 117 migrants missing in capsizing off Libya

  • The migrants came mainly from west Africa
  • The Italian navy said it had alerted Libyan authorities who coordinated rescue operations

MILAN: A rescue official says survivors have told rescuers that up to 117 migrants might have died when a rubber dinghy capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya.
Flavio Di Giacomo of International Organization for Migration says three survivors were plucked to safety by an Italian navy helicopter on Friday, and they say 120 were aboard when the dinghy left Libya.

He said the people came mainly from west Africa, adding: “Ten women including a pregnant girl were aboard and two children, one of whom was only two months old.”
The navy says its airplane launched life rafts after it spotted the sinking dinghy Friday with about 20 people aboard. It wasn't immediately clear if some migrants had already fallen off.
The Italian Coast Guard says Libya asked a nearby cargo ship to search for survivors, but no one was found.
The Italian news agency ANSA quoted Libyan authorities as saying a dispatched Libyan coast guard boat turned back after mechanical problems.
According to the IOM, 2,297 migrants died or went missing in the Mediterranean last year, out of a total of 116,959 people who reached Europe by sea.
Arrivals in the first 16 days of 2019 totalled 4,449, almost all by sea, compared with 2,964 in the same period of 2018.
“As long as European ports will remain open ... sea-traffickers will continue to do business and kill people,” Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said in a Facebook post late on Friday.
Since Italy’s populist government came to power in June, Salvini, leader of the anti-migrant League, has closed Italian ports to humanitarian vessels.