Election observers in Afghanistan say ongoing attacks on political candidates could undermine public faith in this Sunday's elections. Officials continue to express confidence that the parliamentary and local council elections will proceed without major incident.
As campaigning intensifies ahead of this Sunday's elections, so too has violence against political candidates and their supporters.Seven men were reportedly killed by supporters of the former Taleban government earlier this week.
On Thursday, Samina Kabir, the head of Afghanistan's Human Rights Commission, announced a fresh attack on a candidate in a remote eastern province.
"Unfortunately, yesterday we received a report that one of the female candidates in Uruzgan province was attacked, and two of the journalists were kidnapped," said Samina Kabir.
She says the violence is part of a broad if uncoordinated campaign by the Taleban to disrupt the elections.
Women, she says, are particularly vulnerable to attack and intimidation, especially in those areas where religiously conservative Taleban insurgents remain active.
Almost 3,000 candidates are competing for Afghanistan's 249-seat national assembly, one quarter of which is reserved for women. Ms. Kabir says by and large, the female candidates have refused to back down, despite the violence and repeated death threats.
Nevertheless, election observers say the attacks may be taking a toll.
London-based Human Rights Watch issued a report Thursday saying, in part, that the violence has created "an underlying climate of fear among many voters and candidates, especially in rural areas."
Local officials, the Afghan news media, election observers and even some candidates are expressing concern that the violence will produce uneven electoral results, and that some voters in rural districts might lose faith in the electoral process.
Election officials say better security remains a high priority, but insist public confidence in the election remains high.
Fillipo Grandi is the United Nations' deputy director in charge of the Afghan election.
"These attacks continue to be serious obstacles in the good conduct of the elections, but let me stress they have not, repeat not, derailed or interrupted the process," said Fillipo Grandi.
More than 12 million people are registered to vote in Sunday's landmark elections. In addition to the choosing members of a new National Assembly, voters will also select representatives to sit on new local councils.