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Polls Open in Afghanistan Parliamentary Election

Updated at 11:43 p.m.

Polling stations formally opened for voting in Afghanistan's parliamentary election Saturday, though a scattering of rocket attacks struck in the early morning and Taliban insurgents managed to block at least a couple of stations from opening.

The rockets were an apparent warning from insurgents who have written threats on leaflets passed out at mosques, whispered them in villages and posted Internet messages saying those who cast ballots should be prepared to be attacked.

About 2,500 candidates are vying for 249 seats in the parliament, and how many Afghans ignore the intimidation campaign and turn out at the polls will be one measure of whether the vote is considered a success.

Afghanistan: The Road Ahead

One of the rockets slammed into the Afghan capital before dawn and three struck the eastern city of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province, officials said. No casualties were reported.

In Nangarhar's troubled Surkh Rud district, the Taliban blocked two voting centers from opening, resident Kasim said. Taliban were patrolling the area to prevent residents from going elsewhere to vote, he said.

In a southern neighborhood of Kabul, a small roadside bomb exploded near a polling station some 40 minutes before opening, injuring no one, local residents said. Voting did not start at the station because of the blast.

The rocket launched in Kabul landed in the yard of Afghanistan's state-owned television station, Afghan police officer Mohammad Abrahim said.

In Jalalabad, three rockets were fired at a military base on the eastern edge of the city, Nangarhar province spokesman Ahmedzia Abdulzai said.

On the eve of the balloting, the head of a voting center in southern Helmand province was killed when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb - a reminder that the insurgent group usually makes good on its threats. At least 24 people have been killed in election-related violence in the run-up to the vote, including four candidates, according to observers.

In the past two days, Taliban militants abducted 18 election workers from a house in northern Bagdhis province, and a candidate was kidnapped in eastern Laghman province. Coalition forces also detained an insurgent in eastern Khost province who was "actively" planning attacks during the elections, NATO said.

The Afghan parliament is relatively weak so the outcome of the races is unlikely to change the workings of the government. Voters tend to select candidates of the same ethnic group and are often motivated mostly by a desire for patronage jobs or federal funds for a road or a school in their district.

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