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Massive bomb attack as Afghanistan counts vot -

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Massive bomb attack as Afghanistan counts votes

Jennifer Macey reported this story on Wednesday, August 26, 2009 12:38:00

ELEANOR HALL: Overseas now and the elections are over but the violence in Afghanistan continues
unabated. A huge car bomb exploded overnight in the southern city of Kandahar killing 40 people and
injuring another 60.

The attack occurred just after the first results were released from last week's presidential
elections, as Jennifer Macey reports.

JENNIFER MACEY: Just as people Afghans were sitting down to eat, breaking the fast during the
Muslim month of Ramadan, a massive explosion ripped through the centre of Kandahar.

At least 40 people died. Many more were injured as buildings collapsed and windows across the city
were shattered.

There are some reports that a bomb was hidden in a petrol tanker or a truck. Others say that
several bombs in different cars exploded at the same time.

Relatives of victims gathered at Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar. Jan Gull has two relatives who were
injured in the blast.

JAN GULL (translated): As of now 41 people were killed and more than 60 others are wounded by the
explosion - some say 100 wounded.

JENNIFER MACEY: The Taliban has not yet claimed responsibility for the explosion but the south of
the country is considered a Taliban stronghold. Earlier in the day a roadside bomb attack killed
four US soldiers.

This brings the death toll of the NATO led International Security Assistance Force to 259, making
2009 the deadliest year for foreign troops since the US invasion eight years ago.

Professor Amin Saikal is the director of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian
National University. He says it's a sign that coalition forces are engaging the Taliban more

AMIN SAIKAL: Well it is becoming more dangerous and also the number of coalition forces has
increased, and so the more troops you field for battle, the more you are likely to sustain
casualties and it is clear that NATO forces know they're taking the fight into the heartland of the
Taliban and that means that there's going to be more fighting and possibly more casualties from
both sides.

JENNIFER MACEY: The attacks come just as the first results from last week's presidential election
have been released. The early counting gives President Hamid Karzai a slight lead ahead of his
closest rival and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah.

With only 10 per cent of the ballots counted, Mr Karzai has won 41 per cent of the vote while Dr
Abdullah has 39 per cent. But Dr Abdullah says he won't accept any outcome of what he's calling a
fraudulent election.

ABDULLAH ABDULLAH: We need to save the process in order to save Afghanistan and it was widely
crafted to steal the votes by Mr Karzai and his relevant authorities, so that outcome we will not

JENNIFER MACEY: Professor Amin Saikal says the Independent Electoral Commission is investigating
complains about voter irregularity and electoral fraud.

AMIN SAIKAL: It looks like that President Karzai and Dr Abdullah are neck and neck, it's very
possible that when they count the next 90 per cent of the votes, that situation will dramatically
change. And if it tips more and more against Dr Abdullah, then I think that will probably
strengthen the hands of Dr Abdullah's camp to insist on a thorough investigation of the complaints
that they have lodged with a view to see if the selection could even possibly, possibly be declared
null and void.

JENNIFER MACEY: But how destabilising is that for Afghanistan?

AMIN SAIKAL: It is a cause of concern for the Karzai Government as well as for the international
community, it will have a destabilising impact in the sense that Afghanistan now is in a state of
limbo, such a development cannot be very helpful to the process of stabilisation of the country.

JENNIFER MACEY: He says the Afghanistan will remain in a political limbo for several weeks yet
until the final ballots have been counted.

ELEANOR HALL: Jennifer Macey with that report.