Rebels strike as Afghanistan goes to the polls

KABUL, September 18, 2010 (AFP) – Afghanistan was voting for a new parliament on Saturday against a backdrop of rebel attacks and a full security alert following Taliban threats to derail the high-stakes election. Insurgents fired rockets in Kabul and other parts of the country and set off a bomb at a polling station, with the United Nations and the United States warning that security and fraud was a major concern.

Voting got off to a slow start across much of the country for what is seen as a key step in a US-led process to bring democracy to the impoverished and conservative Muslim country ravaged by 30 years of war and insurgency.

It comes at a pivotal time for 144,000 US-led NATO troops trying to reverse the Taliban’s increasingly deadly insurgency after almost nine years of war and allow American troops to start leaving next year.

Insurgents fired a rocket near NATO headquarters in Kabul shortly before polls opened at 0230 GMT, but no casualties or damage were reported, a spokeswoman for the alliance said.

A bomb attack at a polling centre in the eastern city of Khost — not far from the Pakistan border — wounded three people, provincial officials said.

Six rockets landed on the outs