Page last updated at 09:31 GMT, Saturday, 24 October 2009 10:31 UK

Taliban vow to attack Afghan poll

Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah
Hamid Karzai, left, agreed to the run-off with Abdullah Abdullah

The Taliban has threatened to launch a fresh wave of violence at next month's presidential run-off in Afghanistan, and urged voters to boycott the poll.

The August vote passed off without major violence, but there were sporadic attacks by Taliban militants.

The warning came as campaigning opened. Incumbent President Hamid Karzai faces Abdullah Abdullah in two weeks' time.

The Afghan electoral commission is trying to stop the widespread fraud that hit the first-round of voting.

It is sacking thousands of corrupt officials, and scrapping polling stations where the fraud was worst.

Taliban threat

"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan once again urges their respected countrymen not to participate," the Taliban said in a statement emailed to news agencies.

Poll worker rests on ballot boxes at a warehouse in Kabul on 24 August 2009
Turnout in the first round was less than 40%

The 7 November run-off was announced after the Election Complaints Commission decided fraud in August's first round had inflated both candidates' results.

The Taliban called the elections an "American process" and said its fighters would "launch operations against the enemy and stop people from taking part".

Some civilians were reported killed during the August elections as Taliban militants launched rocket and grenade attacks on polling stations in small towns.

At least two voters had their ink-stained fingers cut off after they defied the Taliban call to boycott the polls.

Impartiality questioned

Afghanistan's Independent Elections Commission (IEC) says it is sacking thousands of officials from the first round and cutting the number of polling stations.

Richard Holbrooke: "It is reasonable to hope there will be less irregularities this time"

But Mr Abdullah says he will pull out of the 7 November vote unless some IEC officials themselves are dismissed.

Mr Abdullah, a former foreign minister, has previously accused the government-appointed commission of not being impartial.

His spokesman said the officials should be replaced by people who both Mr Abdullah and President Karzai found acceptable.

Meanwhile, Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy to Afghanistan said it is reasonable to hope for fewer irregularities in the run-off.

"One, there are only two candidates. Two, there is the experience factor. Three, the international community... [is] going to go all out to help make this a success," Mr Holbrooke said in Washington.

Kai Eide, chief of the UN mission in the country, admits that fraud cannot be eliminated but also says he expects its level to be reduced.

Mixed feelings

But the BBC's Charles Haviland in the Afghan capital Kabul says there are mixed feelings about the run-off.

He says that while many diplomats feel it will clear the air, many ordinary Afghans cannot see the need for a second round, with some feeling that the politicians do not serve them well in any case.

Afghan politicians have mixed views. Some see the election as necessary, while others feel it has been imposed by Western countries.

Whatever the doubts, ballot boxes and papers are already being flown to the provinces while trucks, helicopters and donkeys are on standby to deliver them.

Turnout in the first round was less than 40%.

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