Afghan forces target Taliban threat on election eve

* Afghan govt beefs up security ahead of presidential runoff

KABUL: Afghan police and soldiers searched almost every car on the roads of Kabul and other cities Friday in an attempt to thwart Taliban suicide attackers on the eve of presidential elections.
The insurgents have threatened to target polling stations on Saturday when voters will choose between former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani. The second-round vote on Saturday comes as US-led NATO troops withdraw after more than a decade of fighting the Taliban, who were ousted from power in 2001 for sheltering Al-Qaeda militants behind the 9/11 attacks.
Afghan officials are desperate to repeat the success of the first-round vote in April, when the insurgents failed to launch a single high-profile attack as long lines of voters turned up across the country to cast their ballots. “We hope our security measures will be even better than the last election,” General Sher Mohammad Karimi, the army’s chief of staff, told reporters in Kabul. “We have very good planning and coordination with our security forces, and they are on the highest state of alert... The enemy suffered a heavy blow last time, so they have vowed to disrupt the run-off.”
Outgoing President Hamid Karzai has also ordered all security personnel to remain neutral in Saturday’s election, as officials try to avoid the massive fraud that undermined the 2009 poll when he retained power. Abdullah secured 45 percent of the first-round vote, with Ghani on 31.6 percent, according to the final results, which came after weeks of deliberation over fraud allegations.
They were the two leading candidates in an eight-man field, triggering the run-off election as neither reached the 50 percent threshold needed for outright victory. General Mohammad Zahir Azimi, the ministry of defence spokesman, said about 400,000 soldiers, police and intelligence forces were involved in the election security plan. Nations that have fought in Afghanistan and donated billions of dollars in aid since 2001 see a smooth transition of power as a key benchmark of success, despite continuing violence.
A suicide attack targeting Abdullah last week killed 12 people, though he was left unharmed. Karzai, who is constitutionally barred from a third term, has ruled since the end of the austere Taliban era, when men were beaten for not having beards and women were forced to wear the all-enveloping burqa. The Taliban in a statement warned Afghans to “remain far away from the polling stations... lest you should be hurt or killed.” 
Meanwhile, as millions of Afghans are going to exercise their right of suffrage in the Afghan presidential runoff on Saturday, the government has put all security measures on place to ensure security for Election Day falling on Saturday.
In Kabul and other big cities, personnel of law enforcing agencies have been put on high alert to deal with any eventuality. The government has deployed police and army personnel in all roads, streets and sensitive areas in the capital city Kabul to check anyone entering the national capital. Streets in Kabul are deserted on Friday and the security organs have also intensified patrolling in the city and check suspicious vehicles and travelers.
Taliban militants who had failed to disrupt the April 5 presidential elections once again vowed to derail the presidential runoff set for June 14. Former foreign minister Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and the erstwhile finance minister Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai are on the run if anyone secures more votes than other will succeed the outgoing president Hamid Karzai. Meantime, Afghan Interior and Defense ministries have downplayed the Taliban threat, saying the national security forces have taken necessary preparations to provide security for June 14 presidential runoff polls. 

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