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Polling Stations Under Fire in Amarah

By Hazim al-Sharaa in Amarah (ICR No. 99, 25-Jan-05)

Unknown militants stormed into the Khalidia school and opened fire on workers preparing for the election late on January 23. No one was hurt in the attack, and the assailants escaped before police arrived.

Hours later, early on January 24, a rocket-propelled grenade exploded in front of the main entrance of the al-Rassafi primary school, another designated polling site. The explosion broke the main door of the school and damaged property in the surrounding area.

Dr Alla Abdul Latif, a local official with the Independent Electoral Commission, complained that police in the Missan province, of which Amarah is administrative centre, are not doing enough to stop the attacks. The Missan police force consists of 6,000 policemen who have to secure the entire province as well as Amarah.

Latif called security measures for the election “weak”, and said any violence that occurred during the election process would be a consequence of the police’s inability to do more.

Brigadier Ismail Arar Kadhim, commander of the Missan province police force, said attacks on polling sites were “natural”. He said that from January 26, his policemen would begin specific patrols specifically designed to ensure election security.

Hazim al-Sharaa is an IWPR trainee journalist in Iraq.

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