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Karzai well ahead in Afghan tally


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I don't think that it is a surprise to see karzai winning at this point. It is still very early on, but he had all of the backing and all of the exposure to be able to win. I would be very surprised if he doesn't end up winning by a large margin...

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Weekend counting shows interim President Hamid Karzai is well ahead of his rivals and on course to become Afghanistan's first popularly elected leader.

Karzai has 71 percent of the count so far, according to the official election Web site. But only a little over 4 percent of the total vote has been tallied.

Counting resumed Saturday after a one-day break to observe the start of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month.

Overshadowing the weekend counting has been the death of two U.S. soldiers and five Afghan civilians from terrorist attacks.

Of almost 344,000 votes counted by Saturday evening, Karzai, the U.S.-backed favorite, had captured 71 percent, though the preliminary result was based on only 4.2 percent of the ballots cast on October 9.

According to the official election Web site, Karzai has won 244,128 of the 343,727 valid votes tallied in half the 34 provinces.

He is followed by former Education Minister Yunus Qanooni with 15.4 percent, ahead of ethnic Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum with 4.3 percent.

The only female candidate, Massooda Jalal, is running sixth so far, with 1.1 percent of the vote.

Election officials said 59 percent of the voters were men and 41 percent were women.

Final results are expected at the end of October, although it should be clear who has won within days -- and whether the victor secures the majority needed to avoid a run-off.

The October 9 election was marred by controversy. Opposition candidates made accusations of fraud and vowed not to respect the voting results after it was found that ink used to mark the thumbs of voters to keep people from voting twice could be washed away.

Since then, three of the candidates have agreed to accept the results, and a review board investigating the complaints decided that nullifying the count in spite of voting irregularities would be unjustified.

Despite intimidation by ousted Taliban insurgents and bad weather, election officials say about 8 million of the 10.5 million registered voters cast ballots.

Counting began Thursday in Kabul and resumed Saturday after a one-day suspension Friday to observe the start of Ramadan.

Ballots are being counted at centers in Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Kunduz, Bamyan, Herat and Gardez.

Karzai condemned an assault Friday in eastern Kunar province in which a truck was set on fire and then a remote-controlled bomb detonated, killing at least three children and a policeman.

He described it as a terrorist atrocity committed by "enemies of Islam," The Associated Press reported.

The U.S. military said Saturday a homemade bomb hit an American Humvee jeep on patrol in the southern province of Uruzgan on Thursday, killing two soldiers and wounding three others, one of them critically.

There was also an attack on Kabul, with four rockets landing in the capital on Saturday evening. Three struck houses near the airport, injuring one woman, police and residents said.

About 1,000 people, many of them insurgents, have died in political violence so far this year.

The United Nations-backed election, which cost about $200 million to stage, has generated huge interest.

Karzai has led the predominantly Muslim country since the U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban regime in late 2001.


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