KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan’s first parliamentary elections in eight years suffered from violence and chaos Saturday, with a multitude of attacks killing at least 36 people, key election workers failing to show up and many polling stations staying open hours later than scheduled to handle long lines of voters.
Problems surrounding the elections — already three years overdue — threaten to compromise the credibility of polls which an independent monitoring group said were also marred by incidences of ballot stuffing and intimidation by armed men affiliated with candidates in 19 of the country’s 32 provinces. Some areas have yet to vote, including Kandahar, where the provincial police chief was gunned down Thursday.
Stakes were high in these elections for Afghans who hoped to reform Parliament, challenging the dominance of warlords and the politically corrupt and replacing them with a younger, more educated generation of politicians. They were also high for the U.S., which is still seeking an exit strategy after 17 years of a war there that has cost more than $900 billion and claimed more than 2,400 U.S. service personnel.
Deputy Interior Minister Akhtar Mohammed Ibrahimi said 36 people were killed in 193 insurgent attacks across the country: 27 civilians, eight police officers and one Afghan soldier. He said attackers used everything from grenades to small arms fire to mortars and rocket launchers, and that security forces killed 31 insurgents.
The most serious attack on the polls was in a northern Kabul neighborhood where a suicide bomber blew himself up just as voting was about to end, killing three people and wounding another 20, many of them seriously, said Dr. Esa Hashemi, a physician at the nearby Afghan Hospital. Interior and defense ministry officials said 15 people were killed or wounded, including several police.
ELKO, Nevada — President Donald Trump said Saturday he will exit a landmark arms control agreement the United States signed with the former Soviet Union, saying that Russia is violating the pact and it’s preventing the U.S. from developing new weapons.
The 1987 pact, which helps protect the security of the U.S. and its allies in Europe and the Far East, prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing or test-flying a ground-launched cruise missile with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles.
“Russia has violated the agreement. They have been violating it for many years,” Trump said after a rally in Elko, Nevada. “And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to.”
The agreement has constrained the U.S. from developing new weapons, but America will begin developing them unless Russia and China agree not to possess or develop the weapons, Trump said. China is not currently party to the pact.
“We’ll have to develop those weapons, unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and say let’s really get smart and let’s none of us develop those weapons, but if Russia’s doing it and if China’s doing it, and we’re adhering to the agreement, that’s unacceptable,” he said.
ISTANBUL — Turkey will “never allow a cover-up” of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, a senior official in Turkey’s ruling party said Saturday, reflecting international skepticism over the Saudi account that the writer died during a “fistfight.”
The comment was one of many critical reactions to Saudi Arabia’s announcement early Saturday of the writer’s violent death, indicating the kingdom’s efforts to defuse a scandal that has gripped the world were falling short. U.S. President Donald Trump, however, was an exception. Asked whether he thought the Saudi explanation was credible, he replied: “I do. I do.”
Despite widespread outrage over the killing of the columnist for The Washington Post, it is unclear to what extent the top leadership of Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally and a powerful player in a volatile region, would be held accountable for what human rights activists describe as an extrajudicial killing by Saudi agents.
The only way to find out what happened would be through an international investigation led by a U.N.-appointed panel, the editorial board of The Washington Post said.