Insurgents kill 24 in Iraq election day attacks (UPDATE-2)

Insurgents kill 24 in Iraq election day attacks (UPDATE-2)

Explosions killed 24 people as Iraqis voted on Sunday in an election that Sunni Islamist militants have vowed to disrupt, in one of many challenges to efforts to stabilize Iraq before U.S. troops leave, Reuters reported.

Scores of mortar rounds, rockets and roadside bombs exploded near polling stations in Baghdad, and some elsewhere, in a coordinated campaign to wreck the voting for Iraq's second full-term parliament since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Iraq's political course will be decisive for President Barack Obama's plans to halve U.S. troop levels over the next five months and withdraw entirely by end-2011. It will also be watched by oil companies planning to invest billions in Iraq.

In the deadliest attacks, 12 people died when a bomb blew up a Baghdad apartment block and four were killed in a similar explosion at another residential building. A Katyusha rocket killed four people elsewhere in the capital of seven million.

At least 65 people were wounded around the country.

The Baghdad security spokesman, Major General Qassim al-Moussawi, said most of the rockets and mortar bombs had been fired from mainly Sunni districts in and around the city.

"We are in a state of combat. We are operating in a battlefield and our warriors are expecting the worst," he said.

Despite the hail of attacks, Moussawi said a car ban aimed at foiling vehicle bombs had been lifted after less than four hours of voting. Curbs on buses and trucks stayed in force.

The Islamic State of Iraq, an al Qaeda affiliate, had warned Iraqis not to vote and vowed to attack those who defy them.

The 96,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq stayed in the background, underscoring the waning American role in Iraq.

Voters in the ethnically and religiously divided country can pick between mainly Shi'ite Islamist parties that have dominated Iraq since Saddam Hussein's fall and their secular rivals.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite, urged all parties to accept the election results. "He who wins today may lose tomorrow, and he who loses today may win tomorrow," he said after casting his ballot in the fortified Green Zone enclave.

One of Maliki's opponents, ex-Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, has already complained of irregularities in early voting.

Allawi's secular list is tapping into exasperation with years of conflict, poor public services and corruption, and hopes to gain support from the once dominant Sunni minority.

About 6,200 candidates from 86 factions are vying for 325 parliamentary seats. No bloc is expected to win a majority, and it may take months to form a government, risking a vacuum that armed groups such as Iraq's al Qaeda offshoot might exploit.

COMPETITIVE ELECTION

Few elections in the Middle East have been as competitive as this one. Its conduct could determine how democracy in Iraq affects a region used to kings and presidents-for-life.

"Today is the day when Iraqis speak while others keep silent," declared Ammar al-Hakim, Shi'ite leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI), after voting.

Maliki, whose State of Law coalition is claiming credit for improved security since sectarian warfare peaked in 2006-07, faces a challenge from ISCI and his other former Shi'ite allies, derided by Sunni militants as pawns of neighboring Iran.

Anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, speaking at a rare news conference in Tehran, said holding an election under the "shadow of occupation" was illegitimate, but urged Iraqis to vote anyway to pave the way for "liberation" from U.S. forces.

Sadr galvanized anti-U.S. sentiment after the 2003 invasion but faded from the political scene after vanishing, ostensibly to embrace religious studies in Iran, more than two years ago. Sadr's Mehdi Army, once a feared militia, has stepped away from combat, but his political movement is seeking a comeback, running in harness with ISCI, its former Shi'ite rival.

In contrast to the previous election in 2005, Iraqis can vote for individual candidates this time, not just party lists.

"Democracy in Iraq is chaotic. Everyone lies," said Abdul Rasheed al-Tamimi, a laborer in the Shi'ite city of Najaf. "I'm only voting because it's an open list and I know the candidate personally. I can hold him to account if he breaks his pledges."

In Kirkuk, a city disputed by Kurds and Arabs, Bushra Qassim said she was voting to secure a better future for Iraq.

"This election is the last chance for Iraqis to change the reality in which they live so as not to repeat the terrorism that I and many other Iraqis suffered from," the 40-year-old said, her face deeply scarred from a 2008 car bombing that killed one of her sons and wounded her and three other sons.

Some of Maliki's rivals allege intimidation and arrests, adding to tensions created by a ban on 400 candidates accused of links to Saddam's outlawed Baath party -- a furor which exposed the lingering divide between Sunnis and Shi'ites.

In Anbar province, a Sunni bastion, tribal sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha said Sunnis were hoping the poll would make them feel they had a real stake in their now Shi'ite-dominated country.

"Change is our goal. We want to put fresh blood in the political process," said Abu Risha, leader of the so-called Awakening Councils which helped the U.S. military push back a raging al Qaeda-inspired Sunni insurgency.

Subscribe to Trend in Google News! Subscribe
EU regulator set to rule on Pfizer COVID pill by end-Jan, ahead of Merck
EU regulator set to rule on Pfizer COVID pill by end-Jan, ahead of Merck
Brazil's Embraer wins order for 20 aircraft from U.S. lessor Azorra
Brazil's Embraer wins order for 20 aircraft from U.S. lessor Azorra
Boeing invests $450 mln in flying taxi developer Wisk
Boeing invests $450 mln in flying taxi developer Wisk
Loading Bars
Latest
Burkina Faso army deposes president in West Africa's latest coup
Istanbul Airport suspends all flights amid heavy snowfall
India attends informal WTO meet to take stock of negotiations
Explosion kills 6 in southern Somalia
Country calmly to pass current heating period - Ukrainian president
Republic Day parade in India to showcase old, new era of Army
Georgia names main goods imported from Uzbekistan
Kyrgyzstan enters top 10 trade partners of Uzbekistan
Current situation in Ukraine is under control - Zelensky
Iran, Uzbekistan emphasize boosting customs cooperation
Gov’t to set up commission for project of Georgian cultural centre in Jordan
PM of Ukraine says no threats to functioning of national economy
Armenia sincerely wishes to normalize relations with Turkey - Nikol Pashinyan
Armenia ready to sign peace agreement with Azerbaijan - Pashinyan
Sudan security forces fire tear gas on protesters
Launch of Baku-Shusha bus route of particular importance for Shusha city - Special Representative of Azerbaijani President
Azerbaijan talks applications received by SMB Development Agency on creating business in liberated lands
Uzbekistan working to establish power supply in Tashkent region
Azerbaijan discloses annual turnover growth of E-PUL payment system for 2021
Price indexes of financial, construction sectors at Uzbek stock exchange fall
Toyota Caucasus becomes member of Business Association of Georgia
Azerbaijan shares data on number of vaccinated citizens
Azerbaijan confirms 757 more COVID-19 cases, 302 recoveries
Turkmen livestock complex in Akhal region names volume of production
Uzbek company reveals volume of exports to French Bonduelle
Bank of Georgia supports new tower construction in Tbilisi
Iran’s Bahar Azadi gold coin price continues to rise
Azerbaijan sees growth in local banks' total assets in 2021
Azerbaijan unveils number of businesses affected during second Karabakh war (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan's monetary base increases in 2021
Iran shares value of shrimp exports
Azerbaijan’s Small and Medium Business Development Agency discloses number of start-up certificates issued in 2021
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev sends congratulatory letter to chairperson of Organization of War, Labor and Armed Forces Veterans
Central Bank of Iran shares data on country’s foreign debts
Iran sees increase in liquidity
Azerbaijani Small & Medium Business Dev't Agency talks about its activities in 2021
Serbian deputy PM to visit Azerbaijan
EU regulator set to rule on Pfizer COVID pill by end-Jan, ahead of Merck
Kazakhstan records decrease in annual inflation in December 2021
Low-carbon transition pressures to accelerate in 2022
Iran unveils volume of electricity generated by Esfahan TPP
Capital of Iran’s Bank Mellat soars
Uzbekistan sees increase in newly created enterprises
IOM talks about areas of cooperation with Turkmenistan in 2022
Luxembourg’s SES S.A. continues steps within Kazakhstan’s state program foe economy dev't
Croatia to send three delegations to Azerbaijan
Luxembourg’s SES S.A. to launch satellites to boost internet speed in Kazakhstan
Labour migration from Turkey to Germany slightly increased in 2021
Iran shares data on production capacity of Petrochemical Special Economic Zone
Kazakhstan maintains positive trend in local consumer demand
Kazakhstan’s Samruk-Kazyna Fund preliminarily approves new procurement procedure
Georgia sees growth in residential property price index
Brazil's Embraer wins order for 20 aircraft from U.S. lessor Azorra
Judicial investigation of two Armenian citizens accused of terrorism completed in Azerbaijan
Russia records another 65,109 coronavirus cases
Azerbaijan's BTB Bank announces net profit for 2021
Georgia's hotels to see increase in demand – forecast
People wanted for grave crimes extradited to Azerbaijan - Prosecutor General
India’s imports from China soar to almost $100 bn, led by smartphones, machinery
Uzbekistan reveals structure of foreign trade turnover
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for January 24
Boeing invests $450 mln in flying taxi developer Wisk
Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation resuming local competitions
German group of companies to construct plant in Uzbekistan
Turkmenistan's Akhal Electric Power Station boosts output rate
Azerbaijani police calls on citizens coming to Shusha to observe security rules
Georgia to provide financial support to senior citizens - PM
India's Infosys confident about more offshoring opportunities
Azerbaijani Defence Minister meets with Finland's MFA delegation (PHOTO)
Turkmen multifilament yarn manufacturer exports to foreign markets
National Bank of Kazakhstan increases base rate
JPMorgan merges EU operations into single German business
Turkmen enterprise reveals output of glass sheets
Turkmenistan's State Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs opens tender for audit
TAP’s technical forward capacity by Jan.30
Azerbaijan - Georgia's top fuel, lubricant supplier in 2021
NEQSOL Holding delivered Strategic HR Business Partner Program for HR professionals
Physical gas flows, nominations at TAP’s interconnections
Progress on iron foundry construction project in Kazakhstan unveiled
Weekly review of Azerbaijani oil market
Georgia’s hazelnuts export value, volume grow
Iran seeks to increase economic ties with Iraq
Iran to put taxes on petrochemical exports revenues
SOCAR Turkey talks on demand for STAR Refinery products
Kazakhstan unveils trade data with its top partners in Americas
First passenger bus from Baku arrives in Azerbaijan’s liberated Shusha (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Electricity generation booming at Iran’s biggest thermal power plant
Azerbaijan to hold auction to place Unibank’s bonds on Baku Stock Exchange
Azerbaijani AFB Bank discloses net profit for 2021
Turkmengaz to purchase material and technical resources via tender
Uzbekistan to support new projects of food producers
Anil Agarwal to set up $10 bn fund to hunt for govt assets
Outbreak alert: members of Georgia's government test positive for COVID-19
Azerbaijan approves agreement on customs co-op with Saudi Arabia
Iran records surge in number of flights via Shahid Beheshti Airport
Visa regime between Azerbaijan and Qatar cancelled
Iran's handmade carpet production declines
Footage of Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development arriving in Fuzuli International Airport published (PHOTO)
Uzbekistan to build new power units at its Angren TPP
Georgia’s Batumi City Hall talks loan interest to be paid out to EBRD, KfW
All news