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Militants Claim More Lives on Eve of Poll

Police round up insurgents but campaign of violence continues as polling day approaches.
By Yaseen Madhloom

At least eight Iraqis have been killed on the eve of the January 30 election, the latest victims of continuing violence that has left dozens dead in the last few days.


In the predominantly Kurdish town of Khanaqin, close to the Iranian border, three Iraqi soldiers and five civilians were killed on January 29 when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a United States military base.


A roadside bomb exploded in front of a polling station in the al-Furat neighbourhood of Baghdad on January 29, according to a police officer who wished to remain anonymous. There were no reports of casualties.


And on the night of January 28, gunmen stormed a polling station located behind the Baghdad Cinema, said Ali Ahmed Abbas, a police officer. Residents in the area say they heard several shots being fired.


In the Babil governorate south of Baghdad, a mortar round landed on a house near a polling station in the town of Iskandariyah on January 28, killing a man and his five-year-old child. They were eating dinner when the shell struck.


Two mortar rounds also landed on the Imam Omran bin Ali shrine, just south of Baghdad. Police believe insurgents were targeting a nearby polling station in the al-Jumjuma area.


Captain Muthana al-Mamoori, Babil police spokesman, said security forces stormed buildings in Iskandariyah and nearby Latifiyah, leading to the arrest of 20 men who are suspected of carrying out attacks against various polling stations.


Police also defused seven rockets that were going to be used in attacks on polling stations near the town of Mahawil, said al-Mamoori.


In Basra in the south of the country, police denied a media report that hundreds of police uniforms had gone missing, possibly to be used by insurgents to infiltrate polling sites. "It’s not true," said Dhia Jabbar, Basra police spokesman.


In the last few days, dozens of Iraqis have been killed and polling stations have been hit in Baaqubah, Dahuk, Baghdad, Ramadi and other cities across Iraq. Strict security measures have been brought in because of the violence - included curfews and travel bans - which will last until after the elections.


At a news conference on January 29, Iraqi president Ghazi al-Yawar said he believed many Iraqis would abstain from voting out of fear. "If the majority of Iraqis do not take part in the elections, we know that most of them will not participate because of the security situation, not because they are boycotting the vote," he said.


Yaseen Madhloom is an IWPR trainee journalist in Iraq. IWPR's reporting network across Iraq contributed to this article.


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