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More Violence as Polls Loom

Seven civilians and an Iraqi soldier die in car bombings, a roadside blast and crossfire.
By IWPR

With the elections approaching fast, January 27 was another day of violence in Iraq. At least eight Iraqis died, most in car bomb attacks.


Three Iraqi civilians died in Samarra, to the north of Baghdad, after a car bomb exploded near their home. Another civilian was killed when he was caught in the crossfire of a gunbattle between United States troops and insurgents, police said.


In Mahmudiyah, a town just south of Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed three Iraqi civilians. The explosion occurred just after a US military convoy had passed through the area. And in Ramadi, located in the volatile western Anbar province, one Iraqi National Guardsmen was killed when insurgents attacked a polling station, police said.


Meanwhile in Basra, in the south-east of Iraq, a polling station in the al-Zubayr area was hit by a grenade on January 26, but there were no casualties. “The guard at the polling station had left the building for fear that the building might be fired at,” said a police officer, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons.


The policeman added that Danish troops of the Coalition arrived several hours later and defused a bomb found at the same polling site.


After the incident, Basra resident Adil Muhammed, 33, said he was becoming increasingly uncertain about whether he ought to participate in the elections – he's afraid he could be killed.


"I don't understand how the explosion took place because the building is heavily guarded and all the roads leading up to it are closed off,” said Mohammed, a restaurant owner. “I think they've penetrated the security apparatus in our area."


Another Basra resident, Abu Abdullah, said city's proximity to the borders with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have made it a haven for foreign extremists.


"They reject the elections because they know that this community rejects them [the foreign insurgents],” said Abdullah. “So they're trying to make the elections fail by all means.”


Meanwhile, in Thi-Qar province in southeast Iraq, about 250 election workers have volunteered to travel to Anbar province at the request of election officials in the unstable western region. Because of the security situation, the electoral commission in Anbar has had difficulty finding enough election workers. Muhammed Qasim, spokesman for the Thi-Qar electoral commission office, said many volunteers had turned up out of a desire to make the election a success in the whole of the country.


An election worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said the training he and his fellow-volunteers had received included instructions on how to register voters, because unlike residents of other, more stable provinces, those in Anbar had not been registered in advance. Registration and voting will take place at the same time.


The Thi-Qar commission office told staff on January 27 that volunteers were also needed to go to Mosul, another violent area. In the northern town of Sinjar, located near Mosul, a tractor bomb killed or injured 20 people on January 26.


Police in Thi-Qar issued a statement setting out the security measures for elections in the province. Besides traffic restrictions, the statement said there will be a curfew from 8 pm to 6 am from January 27 to the 31, and as elsewhere January 29 to 31 will be official holidays.


In the southeastern Wassit province, which includes the city of Kut, security preparations for the elections have been completed, but police still acknowledged that they cannot guarantee that all attacks will be prevented. Police here have been using loudspeakers to broadcast the security measures for the elections. Residents have been told that security forces will open fire on anyone who violated the curfew.


Safaal Mansoor, Ziyad al-Ujaily and Meethaq Fadhilare IWPR trainee journalists in Iraq.


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