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Insurgents Defy Crackdown
Insurgent attacks claimed the lives of at least eight Iraqis and five United States soldiers as security forces began an unprecedented crackdown aimed at securing the country’s elections.
A car bomb exploded next to a police station in southern Baghdad, killing four people early on January 28. Another bomb exploded nearby, next to a school designated as a polling site.
The US military said one soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in the southern part of the city. Another was shot minutes later in a northern district. Later, another bomb claimed the lives of three American soldiers in western Baghdad
The Associated Press reported that polling sites in at least six major cities were attacked, including Kirkuk where a policeman died.
Police in Diyala province said two people were killed and three others wounded in a mortar attack on a polling center in Baqubah on the morning of January 28. A policeman died when a roadside bomb exploded near a patrol in the city.
Dahuk governor Nichervan Ahmed, speaking on KTV television on January 28, said 10 Arabs had been arrested after two bombs exploded in Dahuk city. The bombs, placed in trash bins, exploded within ten minutes of each other at the College of Law and near the Zhian Hotel, which is close to the city’s security centre.
Ahmed insisted that, “The police and security forces are ready to defend the election forces."
Thousands of police and Iraqi National Guardsmen are deploying throughout the country to enforce new security measures, which include closing Iraq’s borders and banning travel between provinces.
An extended curfew was announced in most cities, stretching from 7 pm to 6 am. On election day, Baghdad International Airport will be closed and civilian traffic banned.
Under the crackdown, police in Baaqubah closed three bridges in the city and extended the curfew by two hours, so that now it runs from 5 pm to 6 am. Iraqis crowded into bakeries and grocery stores around the country to stock up before the start of the extended curfew.
“People have been coming to my shop a great deal during these days,” said Baaqubah grocer Abu Ali. “Everyone has been buying loads of things.”
An IWPR reporter in Diyala says the situation there is growing worse every day, with the sounds of shooting now heard constantly, despite the security measures.
Witnesses in Diyala say insurgents pull up alongside motorists and threaten them not to vote. In Baghdad, rebels and others who oppose the election are slipping threatening messages under doors.
Supporters of militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi posted a message on an Islamic website taking credit for killing a candidate on prime minister Ayad Allawi’s list. The death of Salem Jaafar al-Kanani was one of the most serious strikes yet against the National Accord Party.
The website included video footage of the killing, including a statement from a captured Kanani in which he said, "I advise all young men not to back the enemy occupiers and ask them to serve the people of their homeland. I have been captured by the mujahedin. They have treated me very well."
Then an insurgent fired three bullets into his chest.
The video came out the same day that the Iraqi government announced the arrests of three close aides of Zarqawi, whose organisation is believed to be linked to al-Qaeda. The Associated Press quoted Qassim Dawoud, a top security adviser, as saying the arrests occurred in mid-January.
US Marines in al-Anbar province claim they are making progress in their fight against the insurgents there, thanks to recent tips from residents which have led to the discovery of mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank mines and ammunition in Ramadi and Fallujah.
The Marines also discovered a car that was being wired with a bomb near Fallujah. The car was confiscated and two people arrested.
Aqil Jabbar and Shwan Taving are IWPR trainee journalists in Iraq.
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