Monday: Afghan Elections Marred by Fraud, Violence; Bombs Kill 36 in Iraq

BY Tom LeGro  September 20, 2010 at 9:52 AM EST

Afghanistan elections

Afghan election workers move ballot boxes to the Independent Election Commission warehouse in Kabul on Monday. Photo by Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images.

The Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan, an independent observer group, is voicing “serious concerns” about the integrity of Saturday’s parliamentary elections. In its preliminary report published Monday, it said that the vote “was marred by ballot-staffing, proxy voting, underage voting, the use of fake voter identification cards and repeated voting,” reports the Associated Press.

Indeed, Sangar Rahimi, writing for the New York Times, reports from Kabul:

An Afghan man told me that he had voted eight times with eight different cards after he washed the ink off his finger. Speaking on condition of anonymity he said, ‘I voted eight times but not for a warlord or a drug lord. I voted for a competent candidate to make sure that he will shut the mouth of these warlords in the house of the nation.’”

According to preliminary totals, 3.6 million votes were cast on Saturday — the lowest tally of the four elections held since 2001. The interior ministry said there were 33 bomb explosions and 63 rocket attacks around the country.

In addition to the familiar allegations of fraud, the low turnout “is a testament to the resurgence of the Taliban insurgency, whose attacks on poll workers and candidates forced more than 1 in 6 polling stations to remain closed,” writes Time’s Tony Karon, who adds that you shouldn’t hold your breath for any election results:

“All the main stakeholders in Afghanistan know that the contest among the politicians who ran in Saturday’s election is of marginal significance; the key political contest that will shape Afghanistan’s future is being waged between the Taliban insurgency and the U.S.-led NATO alliance. And it’s not going very well for the Western coalition.”

Afghan authorities said Sunday that they recovered the bodies of three election workers kidnapped Saturday.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, British forces have handed over responsibility for security in Sangin to U.S. forces, marking the end of a four-year mission in the area. The United Kingdom has suffered its heaviest losses in Sangin. Of the 337 U.K. deaths since 2001, a third has happened there.

The Washington Post reports on Sunday about a group of U.S. soldiers from a platoon in the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade who have been accused of targeting Afghan civilians for sport. Craig Whitlock reports:

“The U.S. soldiers hatched a plan as simple as it was savage: to randomly target and kill an Afghan civilian, and to get away with it.

“For weeks, according to Army charging documents, rogue members of a platoon from the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, floated the idea. Then, one day last winter, a solitary Afghan man approached them in the village of La Mohammed Kalay. The ‘kill team’ activated the plan.”

Car Bombs Kill 36 in Iraq

Three car bombs tore through Baghdad and Fallujah on Sunday, killing at least 36 people. It was the worst violence since the U.S. military formally declared an end to its combat operations on Sept. 1.

BP Oil Well Is Dead

Five months after an explosion on a BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico led to the worst oil spill disaster in U.S. history, the oil well was declared dead on Sunday. National Incident Commander Thad Allen announced that tests confirmed that cement injected into the well on Friday and Saturday had cured and permanently shut down the well.

Marketplace’s Alisa Roth reports on how much money BP is out so far and whether we can expect to see BP drilling in the Gulf again.

FDA to Consider ‘Frankenfish’

The Food and Drug Administration begins hearing arguments Monday during a two-day meeting on whether to approve the marketing of genetically engineered salmon. It would which be the first such animal approved for human consumption.

NPR’s April Fulton reports both side of the fish story here.