KABUL- Afghan voters went to the polls Saturday to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai, braving Taliban threats in a landmark election held as US-led forces wind down their long intervention in the country.
Security was tight as polls opened at 7:00 am (0230 GMT) after the Islamists rejected the election as a foreign plot and urged their fighters to attack polling staff, voters and security forces.
Afghanistan’s third presidential election brings an end to 13 years of rule by Karzai, who has held power since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, and will be the first democratic handover of power in the country’s turbulent history.
The NATO coalition force is pulling out its last 51,000 combat troops this year, leaving Afghan forces to battle the resilient Taliban insurgency without their help.
Poll security is a major concern following a string of high-profile attacks in the capital Kabul, most recently a suicide bombing at the Interior Ministry on Wednesday that killed six police officers.
Interior Minister Omar Daudzai said all 400,000 of Afghanistan’s police, army and intelligence services were being deployed to ensure security around the country.
But there were no major incidents in the first two hours of polling on Saturday and preliminary observations suggested stronger turnout than in 2009, when only around a third of eligible voters cast their ballots.