Fraud reports emerging in Afghan vote

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KABUL, Afghanistan -- Internal reports from Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission on Tuesday provide new evidence of serious fraud in Afghanistan's parliamentary elections, including turnouts that exceeded 100 percent in many southeastern districts under the control of the Taliban or other militants.

One Paktika province district recorded 626 percent voter turnout, according to reports obtained by McClatchy Newspapers.

The new indications of fraud appear to strengthen allegations of widespread intimidation, vote rigging and violence that independent Afghan poll monitors began making after the polls closed Saturday, and it cast new doubts on the commission's assertion that it knew of no instances in which commission staff members stuffed ballots.

An independent analysis estimated that the number of violent incidents during Saturday's contests for parliament's 249-seat lower house was higher than for last year's fraud-marred presidential election.

The new data on violence and turnout could make it harder for the Obama administration and the international community to portray Afghanistan's second parliamentary polls since 2001 as a step forward in consolidating the country's democracy and containing the insurgency.

Indicum Consulting, a Kabul-based private security analysis firm, estimated that there were as many as 600 insurgent attacks Saturday, compared with about 450 in the 2009 contest.

Also Tuesday, the worst helicopter crash in four years killed nine service members, bringing NATO fatalities in Afghanistan in 2010 to 529 and making it the deadliest year since the war began in 2001.

The crash happened early Tuesday in Zabul province in southern Afghanistan, a NATO statement said. Later, in another southern Afghanistan attack, a NATO service member died when a roadside bomb exploded under his vehicle in southern Afghanistan, bringing the year's total so far to 530.

The statistics were tallied by icasualities.org, a website that tracks military casualties.

The NATO statement did not list the soldiers' nationalities, but Pentagon officials said most of the dead were Americans.

This is the deadliest helicopter crash for NATO forces in Afghanistan since one that killed 10 soldiers in Kunar province in May 2006.

The Taliban have long been entrenched in many areas of Zabul province, and a Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for what the group said had been a helicopter attack.


The New York Times contributed.


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