May 10, 2018 / 4:36 PM / 17 days ago

U.N. says scores killed during Afghanistan voter registration drive

KABUL (Reuters) - Insurgents have killed at least 86 people lining up to enroll to vote during a registration drive in Afghanistan, the United Nations said on Thursday, describing the violence as a reminder of the need to press on with efforts to bring peace.

Afghanistan’s government launched a nationwide drive last month to issue identification cards to more than 14 million adults, to pave the way for long-delayed parliamentary and provincial council elections in October. Violence during the first phase of the voter registration process has highlighted the government’s struggle to protect voters.

The UN report said insurgents had abducted 26 people during election-related attacks. One hundred eighty-five people were wounded.

“Elections-related violence should remind everyone that efforts toward peace in Afghanistan cannot be set aside,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s special representative for Afghanistan.

The deadliest attack on the election took place last month, when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a crowd lined up outside a voter registration center in Kabul, killing 60 people.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on a project of key importance to the credibility of President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which has been under international pressure to ensure the parliamentary polls take place this year.

The Taliban, who have also launched their annual spring offensive, have already made it clear that they will target the election. The UN report said fighters had threatened to kill election staff or cut off their fingers if they continue their work on the vote. Teachers have been warned that their schools will be targeted if they are used for voter registration.

Some Afghans have expressed concern that biometric stickers fixed into identity cards when people register could be used by the Taliban in remote areas to target those intending to vote.

The election commission is under pressure to register and issue millions of new identity cards by the autumn to ensure credible participation levels in the polls. Afghan security forces have launched operations to drive the Taliban back and promise people will be able to vote in safety.

Editing by Peter Graff

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