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Women defy threats to vote in presidential elections

Women voters have been lining up at polling stations across Afghanistan, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.

An Afghan woman votes at a polling station in Kabul. Credit: REUTERS/Ahmad Masood
An Afghan woman sits near a voting booth after voting at a polling station in Kabul. Credit: REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

The Taliban warned civilians ahead of the election they would be targeted if they try to vote, and dozens died in a spate of attacks in the preceding weeks.

Afghan women stand in line while waiting for their turn to vote at a polling station in Mazar-i-sharif. Credit: REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
An Afghan woman looks through a window as she waits for her turn to vote. Credit: REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
An Afghan woman carrying a child casts her vote at a polling station. Credit: REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
Afghan women wait to cast their ballots at a polling station in Mazar-i-sharif. Credit: Afghan women wait to cast their ballots at a polling station in Mazar-i-sharif

Read more: Afghanistan holds historic election for new president

Long queues as voters defy Taliban threats in Kabul

Afghan women stand in line at a polling station in Kabul. Credit: Reuters

Long queues continue to form outside polling stations around Kabul, as people defied Taliban threats of violence to cast ballots in what promises to be the country's first democratic transfer of power.

Women form long lines outside polling stations in Kabul. Credit: Reuters

As international combat forces prepare to withdraw by the end of this year, the country is so unstable that the very fact the crucial elections are being held is touted as one of the few successes in Mr Karzai's tenure.

Nearly 200,000 Afghan security forces are out protect polling stations and voters from threatened Taliban attacks.

More: Four deaths wounded in explosion in south Afghanistan

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Four voters wounded in explosion in south Afghanistan

Four voters were wounded in an explosion at a polling station in the southeastern province of Logar.

"The blast took place close to a polling station which is a school building and wounded four voters, one critically," Abdul Hameed, governor of the province's Mohammad Agha district, told Reuters.

A policeman stands guard outside a polling station in Kabul. Credit: REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

It was the most serious attack so far on an election that Taliban insurgents had vowed to derail, branding it a 'US backed sham'.

Read more: Afghanistan holds historic election for new president

Presidential candidates cast their vote in the elections

Yousaf Nuristani, chairman of the Independent Election Commission has called on the people of Afghanistan to "come out and vote for their favourite candidates," as voting begins for millions of Afghan citizens across the country.

Presidential candidates Ashraf Ghani and former Afghan foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul voted among others at polling stations to succeed Hamid Karzai as president.

Read more: Afghanistan holds historic election for new president

Key facts in the Afghanistan presidential vote

In the Afghanistan elections a candidate must secure more than 50 percent of valid ballots, failing which the top two candidates go into a run-off. The three frontrunners all enjoy similar levels of support, so a second round of voting is likely.

The time frame for all voting are as follows:

  • Vote counting: April 6 to 20
  • Preliminary results: April 24
  • Final results announcement: May 14
  • (Source: Independent Election Commission)

Here are some of the key points surrounding today's election:

  • 28,500 polling centres opened, with 10 percent closing due to security.
  • It will require around 3000 donkeys to carry ballot boxes due to terrain.
  • There are 12 million eligible voters.
  • Afghan authorities deployed 352,000 forces to provide security.
  • Taliban called the elections a 'US backed sham.'

Read more: Afghanistan holds historic election for new president

Polling stations 'under fire' in eastern Afghanistan

In the Ghorband Valley of Parwan province, some polling stations have come under mortar and machine-gun fire, but no casualties were reported and voting has no major disruptions - report NBC.

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A few polling stations in eastern #Afghanistan have come under mortar fire, an Afghan official tells us, but no major disruption to voting.

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Despite Taliban threats, voting in #Afghanistan going ahead. Let's hope that tonight Afghans will be counting votes, not casualties.

An account purportedly belonging to the Taliban sent a string of tweets claiming disruptions and violence at polling stations:

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All voting booths closed in Jurm district (#Badakhshan), one station open but under assault since morning

Polling stations opened at 7am and are slated to close at 4pm local time.

Read more: Afghanistan holds historic election for new president

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Afghans queue up to vote in presidential election

Afghans queued up to vote in the county's presidential election today, despite the threat of violence from Taliban insurgents.

Afghans wanting to vote queue in the rain outside a polling station before it opened in Kabul Credit: Reuters

"I am here to vote and I am not afraid of any attacks," said Kabul resident Haji Ramazan at a polling station in the capital. "This is my right and no one can stop me."

A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Kabul Credit: Reuters

"I call on the people of Afghanistan to prove to the enemies of Afghanistan that nothing can stop them," Yousaf Nuristani, chairman of the Independent Election Commission told reporters after he cast his own vote in Kabul.

fghan President Hamid Karzai arrives to cast his vote in the presidential election in Kabul today Credit: Reuters

Hamid Karzai, the incumbent, is not allowed to run for the presidency again by the constitution.

But after 12 years in power he is widely expected to retain influence through politicians loyal to him.

He appeared relaxed and smiled for reporters as he cast his vote today.

Afghan presidential candidate Zalmai Rassoul casts his vote in the presidential election in Kabul today

About 12 million are eligible to vote, and there are eight candidates, with former foreign ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zalmai Rassoul, and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani the favourites.

Afghans prepare to vote in presidential election

Millions of Afghans will vote today in an historic presidential election that the first democratic transfer of power in the country's history.

A policeman stands near a billboard for the presidential election at a checkpoint in Kabul on Friday Credit: Reuters

Of the eight candidates, the three favourites are former foreign ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zalmay Rassoul, and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani.

Read: Associated Press photographer shot dead in Afghanistan

An unprecedented level of security is in place after the Taliban vowed to "use all force at its disposal to disrupt these upcoming sham elections."

Dozens of people have been killed in a spate of violence leading up to the vote.

More: Afghan children tell of the horrors of 13-year conflict

Photographer and reporter were rushed to hospital

Veteran photographer Anja Niedringhaus and acclaimed reporter Kathy Gannon were rushed to hospital after they were shot while sitting in the back of car by an Afghan policeman, a hospital director has said.

Today around 11:00am [6.30am GMT] we received two foreign female journalists who were working for a news agency.

One was killed and the other was wounded seriously.

The wounded journalist who is about 60 years old, she is in critical condition and our surgical team is providing her first aid.

– Khost hospital director Abdul Majeed Mangal

Photographer and reporter shot while sitting in car

Photographer Anja Niedringhaus, 48, was killed and reporter Kathy Gannon, 60, wounded while they were sitting in the back of a car, Associated Press said.

Anja Niedringhaus, an acclaimed German photographer who had covered conflict zones including Kuwait, Iraq, Libya, Gaza and the West Bank, was killed instantly, according to an AP Television freelancer who witnessed the shooting.

Bullet holes seen in the car in which Anja Niedringhaus and Kathy Gannon were traveling when they were shot by an Afghan policeman Credit: AP Photo

Canadian reporter Kathy Gannon, who is based in Islamabad and has covered war and unrest in Afghanistan for 30 years, was shot twice and was receiving medical help, the AP said. Kathy Gannon underwent surgery in the eastern city of Khost. .

The operation was described as successful and Gannon's condition was stable, AP said

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