Taliban Battle Police in Kabul on Election Eve

By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 19, 2009 6:32 AM CDT
Afghan soldiers drag the dead body of a militant down the stairs of a bank in Kabul, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009 after gun battles broke out between Afghan forces and three militants who overran a bank.    (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
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(Newser) – Taliban fighters wearing explosive-laced vests stormed a government-run bank in central Kabul today, precipitating an hours-long shootout with Afghan forces 24 hours before the presidential election. A Taliban source said that 20 militants had entered Kabul, a day after a suicide bomb and a rocket attack rocked the capital. Afghan officials continue to press for a media blackout on election violence, fearing a depressed turnout.

The Taliban have threatened to cut off the fingers—stained in indelible ink—of anyone who goes to the polls tomorrow. But international organizations are eager for a credible election, and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon called on Afghans to vote despite the threat. Current polls predict Hamid Karzai will win 45% of the vote and Abdullah Abdullah 25%, necessitating an October runoff.