Afghanistan’s top electoral body has barred dozens of candidates from running in the upcoming parliamentary elections, officials said.
The Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC) issued a statement on Saturday with the names of the 35 disqualified candidates – including serving MPs – after it said they were found to have direct links with illegal armed groups.
Most of those barred have already lodged appeals against the move.
Officials at the IECC said the final list was the result of a month-long probe launched after its office received complaints against hundreds of candidates from voters in 34 provinces.
Some candidates were alleged to have been involved in cases of murder, rape and extortion.
“We disqualified the candidates because we want to clean the process and finally hold free and fair elections,” said Alirez Rohani, the spokesman of IECC.
Already much delayed, the vote in October comes amid increasing attacks by Taliban and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) fighters, who have threatened to target the electoral process.
Diplomats tracking the upcoming elections said they backed the IECC to ensure transparency and accuracy.
But most of the disqualified candidates were planning to launch a nationwide protest against the IECC.
“The IECC did not even provide the opportunity to the disqualified candidates to defend themselves,” said Fawzia Kofi, a legislator from Badakhshan province on the list.
Kofi, who has been accused of funding an armed group to retain control over her constituency, has rejected the allegations against her.
“These are politically motivated accusations. My supporters will start a protest march to prove my innocence,” Kofi said.
Separately, at least 39 Taliban fighters and 14 soldiers were killed in clashes in the southeastern city of Ghazni.
The attack on the strategic city, which straddles the main route between the capital, Kabul, and southern Afghanistan, began overnight on Friday with the Taliban claiming to have overrun it within hours of the assault.
Defence ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish later said the army supported police and the city was now under control of government forces.