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Counting under way in Afghan poll marred by deadly violence, chaos

Counting under way in Afghan poll marred by deadly violence, chaosAfghan election workers began counting votes on Saturday following a partial legislative ballot tarnished by scores of deadly militant attacks, technical glitches and administrative chaos. Nearly 170 people — civilians and security forces — were killed or wounded in election-related violence, official figures showed, and there are fears of more bloodshed when voting resumes Sunday in 401 polling centres. “Inevitable” problems with biometric verification devices, which were introduced at the eleventh hour, as well as missing voter registration lists and lack of staffing delayed or even prevented voting at those polling sites, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) told reporters.



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Eid truce between Afghan army and Taliban marred by deadly blast

Eid truce between Afghan army and Taliban marred by deadly blastA blast at a ceasefire meeting of Taliban fighters in the country's east has killed up to 20 even as the war-weary country celebrated an unprecedented holiday truce in the long-running conflict. The explosion hit a meeting in Nangarhar province as fighters met to mark the Taliban's three-day ceasefire to mark the religious festival of Eid al-Fitr. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the explosion. At least one hardline Taliban splinter faction had previously said it would not abide by the truce, while the area is also known as a stronghold of the Islamic State group. Ghulam Sanayee Stanikzai, provincial police chief, said the attack in Rodat district came as dozens of fighters had gathered to celebrate the truce and most of the dead were Taliban. The blast came at the end of a day which had seen widespread jubilation and scenes of Taliban and Afghan military adversaries greeting each other with hugs and selfies in a large number of Afghan towns. People celebrate ceasefire in Rodat district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan Credit: REUTERS/Parwiz President Ashraf Ghani, who first announced a week-long break in hostilities as a peace overture, on Saturday said he would extend his own truce and called on the Taliban to follow. The unexpected scenes even saw dozens of unarmed militants enter the Afghan capital. Insurgent fighters  entered Kabul through gates in the south and southeast and traffic jams formed where people stopped to take pictures of the fighters with their flags. The Taliban urged people to come forward and take photos with them. Taliban members celebrate ceasefire in Ghanikhel district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan Credit: REUTERS/Parwiz "They are unarmed as they handed over their weapons at the entrances," Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai told Reuters. Their weapons would be returned when they leave, he said. In provincial and district capitals, Taliban militants rode motorbikes into towns normally under siege from the insurgent violence and the fighters exchanged greetings with police and soldiers. Taliban fighters and Afghan security forces hugged and took selfies with each other  Credit: NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP/Getty Images Mohammad Amir, a resident of Kunduz which in 2015 was briefly overrun by insurgents, said "I could not believe my eyes. I saw Taliban and police standing side by side and taking selfies." The surprise truce follows years of fruitless peace overtures and thwarted diplomacy to end a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of Afghans and more than 450 British troops. "I am here to offer greetings to our brothers in the police and army," one Taliban commander called Baba told AFP in eastern Nangahar. "We have held the ceasefire well so far. Everyone is tired of war and if our leaders order us to continue the ceasefire, we will hold it forever," he added. Other fighters said peace could only be found when international troops led by America had left the country.



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Israel’s celebration in Jerusalem is marred by deadly violence in Gaza

Israel’s celebration in Jerusalem is marred by deadly violence in GazaThe ceremony took place 70 years to the day since Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, formally declared the State of Israel an independent nation.



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Kenyan court overturns presidential election after ruling it was marred by 'illegalities'

Kenyan court overturns presidential election after ruling it was marred by 'illegalities'Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, denounced the country’s supreme court as “crooks” in the pay of whites on Friday after it struck a stunning blow for judicial independence in Africa by nullifying his recent re-election. Ruling that Mr Kenyatta’s victory in the Aug 8 vote was marred by “irregularities and illegalities”, the court ordered a fresh vote to be held within 60 days, the first time judges have ever overturned an incumbent president’s victory in an African election. Robed in red and black, the six judges on the bench upheld a petition by Mr Kenyatta’s challenger Raila Odinga, whose claim that systematic fraud had denied him victory was ridiculed by Western observers, who portrayed him as a sore loser. The loser of four elections, all of them tarnished by allegations of impropriety, Mr Odinga was in court to savour his moment of triumph, allowing himself a smile as the chief justice, David Maraga, delivered his momentous ruling. “The presidential election held on August 8 was not conducted in accordance with the constitution and applicable law, rendering the results invalid, null and void,” Mr Maraga told the courtroom, as he read out the four-to-two majority ruling. Uhuru Kenyatta was re-elected Kenyan President in August Credit: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters Outside the building, as well as in slums across the capital Nairobi and in Mr Odinga’s strongholds in western Kenya, the crowds erupted in disbelieving joy. Celebrations in downtown Nairobi after a re-election is called Credit: BAZ RATNER/Reuters Three weeks ago, many of the same people had been running for their lives as police used live fire to crush protests triggered by the electoral commission’s official declaration of Mr Kenyatta’s victory. At least 28 people were killed by the police, including a six-month old baby beaten into a coma from which she never recovered and a teenager hauled out from under his bed and bludgeoned to death in front of his parents. But on Friday, the police seemed bewildered and unsure of themselves, briefly advancing on jubilant opposition supporters, chanting and waving branches on the streets outside the court, before retreating again and eventually disappearing altogether. “We expected the worst and have been given the best,” said Japheth Onyango, a mechanic, as he joined the celebrations. “We have been vindicated and justified. The oppression of Kenya’s people has been ended by the stroke of a pen.” Opposition leader Raila Odinga smiles and waves to a crowd of his supporters as he leaves the Supreme Court in downtown Nairobi Credit: Ben Curtis/AP “People are just so, so happy,” added Dorothy Mwangale, a cleaner, beaming uncontrollably, tears brimming in her eyes. The mood was in stark contrast to the sullen silence of the president’s supporters, who had also gathered publicly to celebrate what they believed would be confirmation of his victory. Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga cheer outside court  Credit: BAZ RATNER/Reuters The disbelief was also etched on the president’s face itself.  Although he agreed to respect the ruling, Mr Kenyatta also upbraided the court saying: “Six people decided to go against the will of the people”. Later, addressing supporters in Nairobi’s Burma Market, the president’s bitterness became even starker as he claimed his victory had been taken away from him by the chief justice “and his crooks”. “This story of theirs is being paid by whites and other trash,” he said, before appearing to threaten the court. “First we say we agree and accept … but they know that we are also men. “Let them wait for us after the election.” Police watch the cheering crowd outside the court in Nairobi Credit: BAZ RATNER/Reuters The court absolved the president of any involvement in any electoral fraud, laying the blame on the electoral commission for the opaque manner in which it conducted the count. Although a detailed ruling is yet to be released, it is likely that the deciding factor was the failure by a quarter of polling stations to submit adequate supporting documentation for the results they filed to the electoral commission. Mr Odinga welcomed the ruling as “precedent setting”, but immediately plunged the new election into uncertainty by demanding the dissolution and replacement of the electoral commission. Police guard the Supreme Court building in Kenya amid the ruling Credit: Ben Curtis/AP “We have no faith at all in the electoral commission as currently constituted,” he said outside the court. “They have committed criminal acts. Most of them belong in jail.” Mr Odinga initially refused to mount a court challenge, arguing that the supreme court had proved itself a subservient tool of the executive after it rejected his petition five years ago to overturn Mr Kenyatta’s first election victory. Deadly clashes sweep Kenya after election hacking claims 01:31 He capitulated only under international pressure after observers said they believed the election was credible.  John Kerry, the former American secretary of state and leader of one observer mission, called on Mr Odinga to concede as graciously as he had done following his defeat to President George W Bush in 2004. Whatever the consequences of its decision, the supreme court has made legal and political history in Africa by making a ruling once believed unthinkable – one that could embolden other courts on the continent to follow suit. When Mr Maraga became chief justice last year, he was little known and some observers questioned whether he had the stature and independence to stand up to Kenya’s ruling elite. While his ruling will be debated for many years, Mr Maraga will be seen to have banished the equivocal reputation that long surrounded Kenya’s judiciary, establishing its authority as a genuinely independent and fearless arbiter over political disputes. Kenya's dollar bonds, shilling fall after court nullifies election #SupremeCourtDecides#shilling#forex#Kenyahttps://t.co/nUco0V1d3qpic.twitter.com/3vvFvJtQNr— John Ndiso (@johnalyst) September 1, 2017 Political unrest in Kenya as opposition challenges election result, in pictures



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Puerto Ricans back full US statehood but vote marred by abstentions

Puerto Ricans back full US statehood but vote marred by abstentionsPuerto Rico’s referendum on statehood delivered a lackluster turnout Sunday, with almost four fifths of voters deciding not to cast a ballot, though those who did unanimously backed the territory becoming a US state. A weak turnout had been predicted, given the call by opposition parties — which supported the status quo — for a boycott of the non-binding vote. Despite the low level of participation, Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello vowed, after casting his vote for full annexation by the United States, to defend internationally the result.



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