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Cablegate: Two Election Workers Superficially Wounded In

VZCZCXRO5565
OO RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #3296 3631440
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 281440Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6547
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS KABUL 003296

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, S/CRS
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR MCGRAW
CG CJTF-101, POLAD, JICCENT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV AF
SUBJECT: TWO ELECTION WORKERS SUPERFICIALLY WOUNDED IN
SUICIDE BLAST IN KHOST

REF: A. KABUL 2708
B. KABUL 2851
C. KABUL 3020
D. KABUL 3215

1. (SBU) As reported in international media, a suicide
bomber on December 28 detonated an explosives-packed vehicle
at an Afghan security forces checkpoint outside the district
center in Manduzai district in Khost province. Press reports
indicate police stopped the bomber before he reached his
apparent target, the district government center compound. A
school is adjacent to the compound, and most of the
casualties are reported to be children. Authorities report
four students killed, as well as one police officer, one
Afghan soldier and another individual. The number of deaths
and injuries could grow.

2. (SBU) A voter registration center, among other
government facilities, is located in the compound. It is
unclear whether the voter registration facility was the
target of the attack. Insurgents have attacked all of
Khost's district centers over the past year, with Manduzai
the last to be struck in this attack. At the time of the
incident, local officials and community leaders were meeting
to discuss voter registration and elections. The Khost
Provincial Electoral Officer (PEO) told the headquarters of
the Independent Elections Commission (IEC) that the blast
superficially wounded two election workers. One pregnant
female district field coordinator (DFC) was hospitalized for
shock but otherwise uninjured. One male registration site
worker suffered minor injuries.

3. (SBU) The two injured election workers in Khost are the
first casualties among Afghan election officials since voter
registration opened on October 6. As reported retels, rocket
attacks near district centers in Farah and Ghazni have
ambiguously coincided with voter registration periods; this
is the first suicide bomb near a district center hosting
voter registration, however, and the first such attack to
cause numerous casualties. In other security incidents,
reported reftels, election workers have been kidnapped and
released in Farah and Paktika, and two convoys of election
materials, one traveling through Ghanzi and one traveling
from Kunar to Nuristan, came under attack. Relative to the
overall activity of anti-government elements, these incidents
remain vastly insignificant in number.

4. (SBU) The effect of this attack on Phase 3 voters and on
voter registration numbers remains to be seen. In Khost, the
first 13 days of this 30-day Phase 3 registration update
produced a 12 percent increase in registered voters over
voters at the polls in 2004. By comparison, the
also-troubled nearby Phase 1 province of Ghazni in 30 days
saw a 20 percent increase in new registrants over 2004
voters. This suggests that, at least until this attack,
Khost was roughly comparable. Since December 13, the first
15 days of Phase 3 in the provinces of Farah, Zabul, Paktika,
Nangarhar, Laghman and Khost added 378,257 new voters to the
rolls. For these six relatively sparsely-populated
provinces, this figure already represents a respectable
addition to the 2.5 million voters added to the rolls in the
larger, more populous 24 provinces of Phases 1 and 2.
WOOD

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