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Minister: 5 dead in election clashes in Congo, truck carrying ballots attacked
KINSHASA, Congo (AP) ' Armed men attacked voting centers and a truck carrying ballots Monday, leaving at least five people dead as the vast Central African nation held only its second election since the end of civil war.
Gunmen opened fire on a truck loaded with unused ballots that was heading to polling stations in Lubumbashi, around 980 miles (1580 kilometers) southeast of Kinshasa, according to Dikanga Kazadi, the interior minister of Katanga province.
Later in the day, armed men attacked voting centers in another neighborhood of Lubumbashi, which is the country's second-largest city.
A total of five people were killed in the two attacks, including one policeman and four assailants, he said.
Congo's presidential and legislative elections have been marked by massive logistical challenges, especially the late delivery of voting materials. Experts and opposition leaders had asked the government to delay the ballot for fear that if a significant number of people are unable to vote, it will discredit the election.
As of Monday afternoon, polling stations had still not opened in the Kenya neighborhood of Kinshasa because voting materials had not been delivered.
In Massina, another poor district near Kinshasa's airport, anger was beginning to boil over as voters continued to wait outside of still-unopened polling stations.
In the eastern city of Goma, Cindy McCain said that observers had stumbled upon what may be a case of ballot stuffing. The wife of U.S. Sen. John McCain is part of a team of independent observers.
Ballots boxes already had been partly filled when the observers arrived before the 6 a.m. opening time at the Farajada polling station.
"I don't know exactly what we were looking at," said McCain, who explained that when they asked poll workers about the partially filled boxes, they were told the ballots belonged to election officials who voted first.
But she said "there were significantly more" ballots inside than poll workers, and the officials were unwilling to further discuss the matter. "The one for the presidential race was maybe a third of the way full," McCain said.
The early light voter turnout Monday was a contrast with 2006, when people trudged in the dark to line up outside polling stations before dawn. Long queues built up even before balloting stations opened. About 70 percent of registered voters participated in that election.
The United Nations organized those elections and newly trained police, U.N peacekeepers and African and European rapid reaction forces provided security. In this vote, Kabila belatedly asked South African troops to help distribute ballot papers.
In 2006, all leading presidential candidates were former warlords commanding armed militias. All those have been integrated into the national army, though militias and Ugandan and Rwandan rebels continue to wreak havoc in the east of the country.