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Afghanistan Election

Turnout High in Afghan Elections Despite Reports of Violence

About 7 million Afghans turned out to vote in Saturday's presidential election, officials said, a high turnout despite scattered violence and reports that some polling stations couldn't open.

While there were no major attacks or suicide bombings, at least 16 security personnel and four civilians were killed over the past 24 hours, officials said.

Eighty-nine Taliban militants were also killed, and 179 other fighters arrested.

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Compared with the 2009 elections in which 625 security incidents were reported, there were close to 150 this year, including mortar attacks, small arms fire and bombings near polling sites. About 1,000 polling sites of the more than 7,100 remained closed because of security concerns as well as harsh weather in remote regions.

Counting began shortly after polls officially closed Saturday night (9 a.m. ET) — allowing only those who remained in line to cast their ballots, the independent elections commission's head of secretariat, Ziaulhaq Amarkhil, told NBC News.

While violence aimed at polling stations and voters was reported, voting was not hampered, Amarkhil said.

The Taliban sent a string of tweets claiming violence and closures at polling stations.

A dozen of their fighters were killed when a large group of militants launched an attack on police posts in the western Badghis province, according to the ministry of interior.

A clash between police and Taliban militants left eight officers dead in the northern Kunduz province after their truck hit a roadside bomb, a security source told NBC News.

In the Ghorband Valley of Parwan province, some polling stations came under mortar and machine-gun fire, but no casualties were reported, a senior Afghan police source at the joint coordination command told NBC News. Soldiers were chasing militants who fired from hills nearby.

Image: Presidential elections in Afghanistan
Afghan voters line up to cast their ballots at a polling station in Herat on Saturday. JALIL REZAYEE / EPA

Armed militants closed two polling stations in Baghlan province’s Talabarfak Valley, people dispersed and elections materials were taken away. A blast caused by explosives placed in a garbage can went off in Jalalabad but caused no casualties.

Electoral complaints commission official Nder Mohseni told NBC News that 250 complaints had been registered against candidates and election workers. The complaints were largely about voter intimidation and vote rigging, Mohseni said.

Officials from Abdullah and Ghani told NBC News that ballot stuffing was reported at their polling sites.

Another problem at many sites was a shortage of ballot papers due to the high volume of voters, officials said.

Image: Afghan women cast their ballots at a polling station in Kabul
Afghan women cast their ballots at a polling station in Kabul on Saturday. SHAH MARAI / AFP - Getty Images

As lines of voters formed earlier in the day, President Hamid Karzai was one of the first to cast a ballot in an election that will choose his replacement.

Karzai has been in office for 12 years and is not allowed to run again. Eight candidates are vying for the attention of about 12 million voters.

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NBC News' Richard Engel contributed to this report.