Iraq elections hit by insurgent attacks

At least 24 people died today in Baghdad as dozens of mortars were fired throughout the city, destroying at least two buildings. The incidents occurred just as Iraq’s parliamentary election commenced. The election is the second since Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003. 6,200 candidates are competing for 325 parliament seats in the election.

Insurgents have promised to disrupt the elections by means of violence to show their opposition to America and the Shiite-led Iraqi government. A group linked to al-Qaeda distributed leaflets in the capital advising people against going to vote. Polling opened at 7 AM (local time) and immediately bombs were detonated and mortar rounds landed throughout the city.

In Shurta, West Baghdad, twelve were confirmed dead, and rescue workers saved twenty from the debris of a demolished building. Across the Tigris River, in East Baghdad, five were killed in a blast at a residential building. The Green Zone, the area that hosts the U.S. Embassy and the Prime Minister’s office, was also hit by mortar rounds. Seven others died in various parts of the nation. No polling stations were hit.

Nouri Maliki, the present Prime Minister, called for a strong turnout to boost democracy in the country. Although violence in Iraq is much reduced from its peak, hundreds of people are dying each month even now and the country continues to have poor infrastructure.

To prevent attacks, the border with Iran was shut down, several troops deployed, and movement of unauthorized vehicles banned, leaving Baghdad’s roads almost empty. Despite this, people continued to head to the polls. “If we had to crawl, we would crawl in order to vote,” said a resident, Ali Abdul Wahab, though according to him: “anyone we vote for will be bad.”

On Saturday, a car bomb detonated near a parking lot used by pilgrims in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, killed three. Two Iranians and an Iraqi were those who died in the attack, only about 300 yards from the Imam Ali shrine, a holy site in Shiite Islam. 54 people were wounded, of whom 19 were Iranians.

Iraqi police officials say that a car bomb detonated in the holy city of Najaf and killed at least three and wounded 50. The blast came just a day before the country goes to vote in their parliamentary elections.

According to officials, the bomb was detonated near a bus carrying pilgrims. Two of the dead were from Iran while the other was from Iraq. Radwan al-Kindi, Director of the Najaf Health Department, confirmed the deaths.

The disaster occurred near the Imam Ali shrine, in Najaf, which Shia pilgrims from Iran and Iraq frequent. Najaf lies 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Baghdad. The incident occurred despite the extra security measures in the country.

Several people have died in the prelude to Iraq’s second parliamentary poll since Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003. 3000 people have been murdered last year in Baghdad alone. Officials from U.S. and Iraq have said that it is likely that insurgents would attempt to disrupt the elections with attacks.

14 people were murdered in bomb attacks at two polling stations where early voting was taking place, Thursday. Thousands of Iraqis who had been exiled have been voting before Sunday’s main polling day.


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