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Afghans Voting In Kandahar Elections Delayed By Violence

Afghan General Abdul Raziq, police chief of Kandahar, as seen earlier this year before his death.

Afghanistan's southern province of Kandahar votes in parliamentary elections on October 27, a week after 32 of the country's 34 provinces went to the polls.

The delay in voting was the result of the assassination of Kandahar's police chief General Abdul Raziq by Taliban insurgents two days before the national elections.

The killing of Raziq, who was widely credited for maintaining stability in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, sent shock waves through the country.

Officials said thousands of soldiers have been deployed to boost the morale of voters shaken by the killing. Zia Durani, a spokesman for the Kandahar police, said security forces are working to protect more than 550,000 voters expected to cast their ballot in the province.

But security officials said there could be further attacks by Taliban militants who are seeking to reimpose strict Islamic law in Afghanistan after their 2001 ouster by U.S.-led forces.

The Afghan elections have been rocked by repeated Taliban and Islamic State attacks. Both groups have warned Afghans against participating in the elections and have used violence to try to prevent people from going to the polls.

During two days of voting last weekend, militants launched some 250 attacks across the country, killing at least 50 people and wounding more than 100, the interior ministry said.

Raziq and Kandahar's intelligence agency commander were killed on October 18 when a member of the provincial governor’s bodyguard staff opened fire on officials leaving a meeting with the U.S. commander of Afghanistan's NATO-led force, General Scott Miller.

Miller escaped unharmed, but a U.S. general was one of two Americans wounded in the attack.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's government named Raziq's brother as his successor.

Raziq's death could serve as a rallying point for voters, said Dawa Khan Menapal, an independent Kandahar candidate.

"People are determined to take part in the election because they want to show the Taliban that terror cannot stop the Afghans from deciding their future," he said.

"We are willing to vote and we will come out even if it costs our lives," registered voter Samiullah told AFP. "Afghanistan has been torn by war and that's why we must decide our future and vote for our candidates."

With the Taliban operating across much of the country and heavy pressure from international partners for the vote to be held, the election has been seen as a major test for the government.

Voting in the 32 provinces saw a high turnout, but the process was marred by logistical and technical glitches as well as violence.

Elections also were not held in central Ghazni province, southwest of the capital, which is still reeling from the Taliban’s takeover in August. It was not immediately clear when they will be held.

Preliminary nationwide results are expected to be released in November. Final results will not be known until the new year.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP