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Last Updated: Friday, 21 March 2008, 20:57 GMT
Afghan Pop Idol winner declared
Afghan Star winner Rafi Naabzada (L) and runner-up Hameed Sakhizada in Kabul on 11 March
The two male finalists received over 300,000 text message votes
The grand final of Afghanistan's hit pop music talent show, Afghan Star, has taken place in Kabul.

Rafi Naabzada, 19, saw off his rival Hameed Sakhizada, 21, to win the contest at a heavily-guarded hotel.

The programme has become a sensation in Afghanistan where it is estimated that 11m viewers, or over one-third of the population, regularly tuned in.

The show received severe criticism from conservative clerics, partly because a woman reached the final three.

Mr Naabzada, who often wears a white leather jacket, said: "I am very happy to become an Afghan Star."

Modern beat

The two male finalists together received more than 300,000 text message votes.

Lima Sahaar
Lima Sahaar was voted out last week in third place

Mop-topped runner-up Mr Sakhizada bowed out graciously, saying: "I do not feel that I am defeated today, but I think that I am a lucky man."

Twelve finalists were picked from all over the country out of 2,000 applicants to take part in this year's show, performing traditional music with a modern beat.

The BBC's Alastair Leithead at the grand final says it was an impressive show in the ballroom of the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, a city where the Taleban once took centre stage.

Afghanistan has come a long way since then but criticism of the talent show is a reminder of how traditional and conservative the country remains, he says.



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