Afghan election commission orders recounts

Afghanistan's election commission has ordered recounts of parliamentary election votes in some parts of the country, a senior official said Sunday.

Afghanistan's election commission has ordered recounts of parliamentary election votes in some areas of the country, a senior official said Sunday.

Fazel Ahmad Manawi, the election commission chair, said recounts have been ordered in parts of at least seven provinces.

The number of places subject to recounts is expected to increase because not all results have been fully examined, he said. The votes in question will be recounted under the supervision of his commission and the electoral complaints commission, along with national and international observers.

"We want to be very clear on the counting of these ballots," he said.

The Sept. 18 elections were seen as a test of the Afghan government's commitment to rooting out corruption.

The vote was the first since a presidential election last year was nearly derailed by widespread ballot-box stuffing and tally manipulation. That poll led many Western powers to question whether they should be supporting the administration of President Hamid Karzai with military forces and funds.

Final results in the latest election are not expected until late next month. About 2,500 candidates are vying for 249 parliamentary seats.

Election day was marred by rocket attacks and bombings at polling stations. At least 21 civilians and nine police officers were killed during the voting, according to the election commission and the Interior Ministry.

Observers said some people were able to wash off supposedly indelible ink used to mark fingers to prevent multiple voting. In some areas, poll workers let people use fake registration cards and allowed children to vote, according to the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, the main independent Afghan observer group.

Rear Admiral Greg Smith, the NATO spokesman, said violence this time was higher than in the previous poll, with reports of 396 incidents, compared with 281 last time. Part of the reason for the increase is that NATO forces are now more numerous in the country and in a better position to monitor the situation.

More kidnappings, violence

In the northeast, Afghan officials said a female British aid worker and three Afghan colleagues were kidnapped Sunday in Kunar province. Khalilullah Zaiyi, the Kunar police chief, said police chased the kidnappers and were engaged in a brief gunfight close to the ambush site before the men escaped.

In southern Afghanistan, two NATO service members were killed in a bomb blast early Sunday, the military alliance said.

NATO said the troops were killed by an improvised explosive device but provided no further details. The nationalities of NATO deaths are not generally released until after family members are contacted.

This year is already the deadliest of the war, with more than 530 members of international forces killed.

NATO said it launched an air strike late Saturday in Kunar province, along the Pakistan border, that targeted a senior al-Qaeda commander who co-ordinates a group of Arab fighters in the area, saying he routinely helped them travel into the region.

It did not say whether the commander was killed in the attack, but said his compound was destroyed. It said collateral damage was kept to a minimum.