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Nigeria election draws millions amid violence

Technical difficulties with new biometric cards and attacks on voters at polling stations have prompted authorities to extend the elections into Sunday in some parts of the country.

By
Amy R. Connolly
Incumbent Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathon, L, and challenger Mohammadu Buhari. UPI Photo by Jin Lee/Pool, Photo of Buhari by U.S. Department of State
Incumbent Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathon, L, and challenger Mohammadu Buhari. UPI Photo by Jin Lee/Pool, Photo of Buhari by U.S. Department of State | License Photo

ABUJA, Nigeria, March 28 (UPI) -- Nigerians headed to the polls by the millions Saturday for the hotly contested presidential election that analysts say is too close to call.

At least 24 people have been reported killed near polling stations in multiple attacks that may have been carried out by Boko Haram militants or other political malcontents. The attacks, along with technical problems affecting new biometric cards, prompted some districts to extend voting into Sunday.

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The tense race between incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and former military ruler Mohammadu Buhari has polarized voters on religious, ethnic and sectional lines.

Jonathan, a Christian from the conservative People's Democratic Party, enjoys support in the south, while challenger Mohammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the All Progressives Congress, is popular in the north.

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In a promise to keep this election the fairest in Nigerian history, handheld biometric thumbprint readers were used as voter identification for the country's 69 million voters. But the devices, riddled with technical glitches, only caused frustration among voters, including Jonathan, who was forced to leave and come back to vote after the problems were solved.

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Polls were supposed to open by 8 a.m., but by 12:30 p.m. only 81 percent were accepting voters. The Independent National Electoral Commission also reported staff members and voting materials were hijacked. Adding to the problems, the commission website was hacked by a group calling itself the Nigerian Cyber Army.

"Sorry xD Your Site has been STAMPED by TeM Nigerian Cyber Army FEEL SOME SHAME ADMIN!! Security is just an illusion," a statement on the website read.

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Nigerian Watch quoted a source saying U.S. Marines arrived at a nearby airport in Ghana in anticipation of evacuating Americans from Nigeria in the event of post-election violence.

The election was originally scheduled for Feb. 14, but was delayed due to the threat of Boko Haram. Since then, the Nigerian military said it has made great advances on the extremist group, but Boko Haram continues its attacks on the area.

Additional reporting by Fred Lambert.

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