Afghan, international forces arrest 25 Taliban and al-Qaida-linked suspects ahead of election - - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

Afghan, international forces arrest 25 Taliban and al-Qaida-linked suspects ahead of election

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ Afghan intelligence agents backed by international peacekeepers arrested 25 people allegedly linked to the Taliban and al-Qaida in an early morning raid in eastern Kabul Saturday, a spokesman for the peacekeepers said.

Lt. Cdr. Ken MacKillop said the raid took place between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. in the Policharki district of the capital. He gave no details about what the men were allegedly plotting or whether it was linked to presidential elections on Oct. 9.

MacKillop said nobody was injured in the operation. Afghanistan's Intelligence Service had no comment.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the 18,000-strong U.S.-led military coalition warned the historic election was entering a dangerous phase and the Taliban were likely to try to disrupt it, despite all the efforts of Afghan and international security forces.

``We are getting to a more dangerous time,'' said spokesman Maj. Scott Nelson. ``As we get closer to the election we expect to see more activity. We think we've done a good job along with the government of Afghanistan to disrupt a lot of their operations, but it only takes one person with a car bomb to get in there and get lucky and do something.''

Two Afghan soldiers were killed and seven wounded in a land mine attack on their convoy in the southeastern city of Orgun, the U.S. military announced Saturday. The attack occurred Thursday.

Nelson said a significant threat still exists to Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar, both of which the Taliban has publicly said they hope to target.

He said the rebels were concentrating most of their efforts on the south and east of the country, the regions where they have launched the most attacks on election workers, Afghan security forces and ordinary citizens in recent months.

Nelson said Taliban forces have tried to intimidate voters and local leaders.

``They have significantly increased their information propaganda war. We see a lot of 'night letters' in villages, particularly in the south and southeast. The Taliban claim responsibility for things they didn't do, and also just make things up,'' he said.

``Night letters'' are unsigned leaflets that are distributed clandestinely.

Election organizers are also concerned violence by Taliban-led rebels in Afghanistan opposed to the poll could spill over the border to Pakistan.

A three-day drive to register up to 800,000 Afghan refugees in Pakistan eligible to vote in the elections began Friday. About 340,000 refugees had registered to vote by Saturday, organizers said. Only about one fifth of the registered were women.

Inside Afghanistan, 10.6 million people registered to vote, more than 40 percent of them women.

``It must be expected that the participation of women will be lower in Pakistan than in Afghanistan, where they had months to overcome resistance to women taking part,'' said Peter Erben, director of The International Organization for Migration's out-of-country voting program which is organizing the registration.

Election staff in Pakistan have received anonymous phone threats in the past two weeks, and ``night letters'' warning people not to vote have circulated in refugee camps.

Millions of Afghans who fled fighting and drought are living in Pakistan and Iran _ and they represent a significant bloc of voters. Up to 600,000 in Iran can vote, but don't need to register, as the government there already has an official list of Afghan refugees.

In Afghanistan, the U.S. military's No. 2 commander, Maj. Gen. Eric Olson, told The Associated Press on Friday the worst fears of widespread militant attacks had not come to pass, and there were no signs the Taliban were capable of launching major violence on polling day.

Olson said he had been worried Taliban and al-Qaida fighters would sabotage the distribution of ballot papers and boxes around the country in recent weeks, but that the operation was now largely completed and had gone off successfully.

``What we've predicted as worst-case scenarios haven't played out,'' Olson said in an interview. ``We've moved a lot of ballots and that was an area we were very concerned about. There was real vulnerability there.''
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