NATO urges Afghans to vote despite violence

Six policemen were killed after a Taliban suicide bomber attacked the Interior Ministry’s headquarters in Kabul

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NATO strongly condemned a pre-election suicide bombing at the Afghan Interior Ministry compound, and urged the country to resist the Taliban and head to the polls on Saturday, AFP reported on Wednesday.

"My message to the women and men of Afghanistan is clear: go to the polls," NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at the end of a two-day NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels.

"Only you have the right to decide your country's future," he added.

Earlier on Wednesday, six policemen were killed from a suicide bombing at the ministry’s compound, one of the capital’s most heavily fortified areas, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The attack was part of a Taliban violence campaign, launched earlier to disrupt the vote for a new president and provincial councils, added AP.

While condemning the attack, Rasmussen welcomed that “the Afghan people have resisted these intimidation attempts.”

The violence is threatening to scare voters away, as Afghans worry that security forces may not be able to protect them on election day.

Farida Hashimi, a female police commander, whose friend and colleague was killed in Wednesday’s attack, said Afghans will worry about the government’s ability to secure polling stations, when they are unable to protect their own headquarters.

"It will have a very bad effect on the elections," Hashimi said. "Or course people will wonder how they can keep polling places safe if a bomber can enter this very important government compound."

The bomber, wearing a military uniform, passed through several security checkpoints ahead of the ministry’s gate, before blowing himself up, the Interior Ministry said. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack within minutes of the blast.

Mujahid warned the people to stay away from polling stations, confirming the centers and workers will be targeted, but NATO’s chief wished the best for the Afghan’s elections.

"We wish you a successful election and we wish the Afghan Security Forces every success, as they protect their countrymen and women on this important day," he said.

(With AFP and AP)