High turnout reported in Kandahar despite fear of attacks

Afghan voters wait in line to cast their votes at a polling centre for the country's legislative election in Kandahar on October 27, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 27 October 2018
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High turnout reported in Kandahar despite fear of attacks

KABUL: Braving security threats, Afghan women and men came in droves to cast their votes on Saturday in southern Kandahar.
The ballot for parliamentary elections here had been delayed for a week after the brazen attack against Afghan and US military figures.
Long and separate queues involving women and bearded men, youths from both sexes and various walks of life, were formed outside polling stations, heavily guarded by security forces.
But poor management and other shortcomings were apparent, just as in last Saturday’s nationwide polls which were extended for an extra day in hundreds of stations, including Kabul.
“Some polling stations opened an hour and half late, some stations had not received polling materials, but the enthusiasm was very high among people despite the fear of attacks,” Rahmatullah, a resident, told Arab News by phone from Kandahar.
Some voters turned up at polling stations an hour ahead of the opening timing, officials said.
“People showed that they want change, and to bring change they can risk their lives too,” said Ahmadullah, a carpenter.
More than half a million people, many of them men, had registered for the elections, which had already been delayed by more than three years because of wrangling among government leaders and poor management.
The poll could not take place in two districts and some stations of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban guerrillas who were driven from power in a US-led attack in late 2001.
Thirteen of 111 in Kandahar’s candidates, running for 11 seats, are women.
Many shops and business were closed for the vote as security forces checked vehicles and individuals to deter Taliban attacks on stations.
Scores of people, many of them voters lost their lives last Saturday in Taliban attacks. Ahead of the ballot the government announced that due to security threats it could not hold elections in more than 2,000 stations.
Kabul had to delay the ballot in Kandahar for a week after the assassination of a top anti-Taliban commander in a brazen attack in the compound of Kandahar’s government as he walked with a group of top Afghan and US military officials, including Washington’s top commander for Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller.
Two other senior Afghan officials were also killed in the incident, which prompted Kabul to send commando troops to quell possible unrest.
There were no immediate reports of attacks by the Taliban during the voting in Kandahar. Officials said the government conducted a number of air strikes, resulting in the deaths of several dozens of suspected militants on the threshold of the elections.
The poll is crucial for Afghanistan’s political stability and US-led international efforts for consolidation of democracy as Taliban and Daesh militants gain ground in the country.
It will be followed by a presidential ballot in six months’ time when the incumbent, Ashraf Ghani, will stand for re-election.


16 dead in crush at Madagascar independence day rally

Updated 26 June 2019
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16 dead in crush at Madagascar independence day rally

  • The accident occurred outside Mahamasina Stadium, where several thousand people had gathered for a concert following the traditional military parade held to mark National Day

ANTANANARIVO: At least 16 people were crushed to death and dozens injured in Madagascar on Wednesday at a stadium hosting national independence day celebrations in the capital Antananarivo.
The bodies of sixteen victims, including three children, were stored at the mortuary of HJRA hospital in the city, AFP journalists said.
Hospital director Oliva Alison Rakoto had earlier reported 15 dead and 80 wounded.
According to witnesses at the hospital, the accident occurred in the afternoon outside the Mahamasina stadium, where several thousand people had gathered for a concert following the traditional military parade held to mark the national holiday.
At the end of a military parade, security forces opened the gates to allow spectators to leave the enclosure, causing the crowd to mass outside the stadium, witnesses said.
The police then immediately closed the gates and blocked the crowd, witnesses said, causing a deadly pile up.
“When the organizers opened the gate, we were in the front row, in the queue,” said Jean Claude Etienne Rakotoarimanana, 29, who suffered bruises from the crush.
“Suddenly people ran to get in front of us. They shoved us, some even punched us and pulled us,” he added, saying he then fainted.
In September 2018, a deadly crush killed one person and injured 30 people in similar circumstances at the entrance of the same stadium during a football match between Madagascar and Senegal.