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Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 17:42 GMT
Herat holds historic election
Voters at Herat's main mosque
Local elders voted in Herat's first election for decades
The western Afghan city of Herat has held what is believed to be its first election for nearly 30 years.


The people of this ancient city are witnessing the first result of freedom and democracy

Abdul-Zaher Ershad, head of Herat radio and television

The vote, for the city's mayor, was carried out by a special council of about 700 men representing various districts.

It came less than a month after Taleban forces lost control of the city.

"Today, we are witnessing the most significant occasion," Associated Press news agency quoted Abdul-Zaher Ershad, head of Herat's radio and television, as saying.

"The people of this ancient city are witnessing the first result of freedom and democracy," he said.

The BBC's Jim Muir, who is in Herat, says voting of any sort is a novelty in Afghanistan but this was hardly democracy in action.

The election was carried out with armed mujahideen guerrillas perched on the walls of Herat's magnificent main mosque, where the council chose the mayor from a list of eight male candidates.

Trusted figure

The winner, by a very wide margin, was Mohammed Rafigh Mojaddedi, a well-known local figure who, during recent years, emerged as a trusted unofficial intermediary between the people and the Taleban.

Northern Alliance soldiers on top of the mosque
Armed soldiers patrolled the mosque walls
Mr Mojaddedi, a Sunni Muslim, is also said to enjoy good relations with the Afghan mujahideen and their local commander, Ismail Khan, who now controls most of western Afghanistan.

Speaking before his victory, Mr Mojaddedi said he hoped "one day we can have a nationwide election for the leader of this country."

Our correspondent says that in the street, some shopkeepers and other passers-by welcomed Mr Mojaddedi's success.

Others, though, objected that he owed his victory to his influence and wealth.

The election was postponed three times to allow the candidates to campaign on local television - unthinkable when the city was run by the Taleban.

Transport companies in Herat, meanwhile, say they have suspended operations along the road to Kabul because of US air strikes.

They said drivers are refusing to set off after American rocket attacks destroyed almost 30 trucks and killed at least four drivers over the past two weeks.

The companies said the attacks had taken place on the road between Herat and Kandahar, the Taleban's last remaining enclave in Afghanistan, and through which the truckers pass on their way to Kabul.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jill McGivering
speaks to Abdul Salam Zaeef, Former Taleban ambassador
See also:

28 Nov 01 | Media reports
Regional caution over US deployment
27 Nov 01 | South Asia
Analysis: US Marines' new role
27 Nov 01 | South Asia
US marines launch first strike
25 Nov 01 | South Asia
Dangers hamper Afghan aid effort
12 Nov 01 | South Asia
Herat, the 'pearl' of Afghanistan
07 Nov 01 | South Asia
US bombing 'kills' Taleban chief
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