Bomb kills 11 as Afghan election contestants claim fraud

Afghan election workers empty a ballot box during the counting process at a polling station in Mazar-i-Sharif on June 14, 2014. A roadside bomb killed 11 people including five election workers in northern Afghanistan, officials said Sunday, June
Afghan election workers empty a ballot box during the counting process at a polling station in Mazar-i-Sharif on June 14, 2014. A roadside bomb killed 11 people including five election workers in northern Afghanistan, officials said Sunday, June 15, 2014, as a prolonged vote count began after the presidential run-off election. -- PHOTO: AFP

KABUL (AFP) - A roadside bomb killed 11 people including five election workers in northern Afghanistan, officials said Sunday, as a prolonged vote count began after the presidential run-off election.

Election officials were sifting through fraud complaints from both candidates, and analysts said the lengthy count could be the trickiest phase in the country's first democratic transfer of power.

More than 50 people were killed on polling day Saturday by militant attacks, including the 11 whose bus was hit by a roadside bomb in Samangan province and five members of one family who died when a Taleban rocket hit a house near a polling station.

Eleven voters in the western province of Herat had their fingers - which were dipped in ink to register their ballot - cut off by insurgents, Deputy Interior Minister Ayoub Salangi said.

But despite the Taleban attacks, Saturday's election drew a high turnout of about seven million voters in a contest between former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani.

The White House praised voters' courage and called the elections "a significant step forward on Afghanistan's democratic path".

The US, along with the UN, also urged the two candidates not to trade unproven fraud allegations, but both Mr Abdullah and Mr Ghani raised the issue immediately after polls closed.

"It is win or lose now," said Kate Clark, director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network.

"The voting is only one phase of the election, and there is still a lot that could change. Being a good loser doesn't gain you much here. "If it is close and fraud looks to have been a lot, and either candidate wants to really make a fuss, then we could be in for months of wrangling."

The 2009 election, when outgoing President Hamid Karzai retained power, was marred by massive fraud that shook the US-led international effort to develop Afghanistan after the fall of the Taleban regime in 2001.

A credible election and smooth handover of power would be a major achievement for Afghanistan's backers after 13 years of hugely costly military and civilian assistance.

All foreign combat troops are due to withdraw by the end of this year.

The Electoral Complaints Commission said it had registered about 275 complaints by Sunday morning.

"There were violation cases where the supporters of the presidential candidates forced voters to vote for a certain candidate," said spokesman Mohammad Nader Mohsini.

"Supporters were also offering money for voters to vote for a certain candidate."

He said allegations had also been raised of interference by election officials and the security forces.