Rockets rained on cities and military outposts across Afghanistan as the war-weary nation prepared to go to the polls in today's historic presidential elections. \nThe embassy district in the capital Kabul was among the targets as more than two dozen rockets were fired around the country in a 24-hour period, Major Scott Nelson, a spokesman for the US-led coalition told reporters. \nRemnants of the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban regime ousted by the US-led invasion in late 2001, and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda group have vowed to disrupt the vote and hundreds of people have died in violence this year. The Kabul rocket, which was larger than the type normally used by insurgents, exploded above the US embassy without causing any injuries, interior minister spokesman Lutfullah Mashal said. Two children were wounded by a rocket strike in southern Jalalabad city while other attacks caused no casualties, Nelson added. \nThe attacks came hard on the heels of an assassination attempt on President Hamid Karzai's running mate with a remote-controlled bomb on Wednesday and the wounding of two US soldiers in another bomb attack in southeast Afghanistan on Thursday. \nThe US-backed Karzai said, however, he believed conditions were right for a "fairly free" election today. \n"I think the conditions are right for a free vote -- for a fairly free vote," he told BBC television. \n"The fact that in spite of the terrorist attacks and attacks on workers for registration the Afghans registered 10.5 million people, almost 42 percent of them women, shows that they want to go to the elections." \nAsked about reports of widespread intimidation of voters by the Taliban and regional war-lords, Karzai said: "I trust the Afghan people's ability to go and vote freely, and they will. \n"There may be some intimidation, there may be some incidents, that happens everywhere," he said. \nOfficials have warned of car-bomb attacks and the possibility of armed assaults on polling stations. Police said they stopped a car packed with explosives yesterday outside the main southern city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban. Kabul streets were unusually quiet yesterday, and several Afghans said they were afraid. \nShopkeeper Shafiullah Samiullah, 16, said his family would check the security situation before voting. \n"Some people say they will not go to the polling stations because maybe something will happen," he said. \nA total of 100,000 international and local troops, police and security personnel will protect voters in the country's first-ever presidential elections. Around 1 million Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan are also expected to vote. \nA smooth election with an undisputed outcome -- neither of which is guaranteed -- will enable US President George W. Bush to claim a victory for his much-maligned foreign policy and predict a similar outcome for Iraq where elections are slated for January.
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