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Watchdog Says Warlords Will Hijack Afghan Poll

Afghan women registering to vote (file photo) 28 September 2004 -- Human Rights Watch (HRW) says in a new 50-page report that the upcoming presidential poll in Afghanistan will be hijacked by warlords there.

The human rights monitoring group said armed factions -- some allied with the United State -- are using force, threats, and corruption to dominate the election process ahead of the 9 October vote.

For example, HRW, said that in northern Afghanistan commanders loyal to two presidential candidates -- Abdul Rashid Dostum and Mohammad Mohaqeq -- had "threatened local leaders to ensure that local populations vote as they command."

Interim President Hamid Karzai is widely expected to defeat 17 challengers for a five-year term as the country's first popularly elected leader.