UN: 85 civilians killed in attacks targeting Afghan election

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.N. released on Tuesday a special report that describes the severe toll of election-related violence on Afghanistan's civilians, mainly from the Taliban's campaign targeting its presidential election last month.

Afghans voted on Sept. 28 despite the militants' threats and violence. However, the polling was marred by widespread misconduct and accusations of fraud — as well as controversy over what appeared to be low turnout and claims from a lead contender, Abdullah Abdullah, that he had won the vote.

The report said that attacks aiming to disrupt the electoral process killed 85 people and wounded 373 others across the country. The number includes 277 civilian casualties, 28 killed of whom were killed on the polling day.

The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in the report that more than one-third of civilian casualties were children.

The report not only documents the casualties caused by the Taliban's violent offensive to disrupt the election, but also highlights a pattern of abductions, threats, intimidation and harassment carried out by the insurgents against civilians leading up to and during the elections.

"These attacks, along with public statements made by the Taliban, revealed a deliberate campaign intended to undermine the electoral process and deprive Afghan citizens of their right to participate in this important political process, freely and without fear," said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan. "Many Afghan people, however, defied the threats and cast their votes."

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani pushed to hold the controversial vote despite the abrupt collapse in U.S.-Taliban peace talks earlier in September. The election's results have also been delayed, further deepening the political uncertainty gripping the country.

Hawa Alam Nuristani, head of the Independent Election Commission, said that the goal is to announce the preliminary results by a deadline of Oct.19.

The U.N. also urged the electoral commission safeguard and properly complete the election process.

Preliminary figures from the U.N. indicated that overall civilian casualties were significantly lower in 2019 as compared to the 2018 parliamentary elections — both in the period leading up to, and on the polling day.

However, civilian casualties on September's voting day were higher than those on voting day in the 2014 presidential election, which went into a second round.

The report blamed more than 80% of all election-related civilian casualties on Taliban attacks, which it said were responsible for an even higher 95% of casualties on the day of polling.