Iraq pre-election violence claims 11 more lives

A victim of a bomb attack, which occurred in Khanaqin, is wheeled on a gurney into a hospital in Sulaimaniya, April 28, 2014. Reuters

BAGHDAD -- Officials say a back-to-back bomb attack in an outdoor market northeast of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, killed at least 11 people.

A police officer says Tuesday's attack took place in the town of al-Saadiyah, 90 miles northeast of Baghdad. He added that at least 19 other people were wounded.

A medical official confirmed casualty figures. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

The attack came a day after a series of attacks killed at least 46 people, the latest violence aimed at discouraging Iraqi voters from going to the polls on Wednesday in the first nationwide elections since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. forces. More than 9,000 candidates are vying for 328 seats in Parliament.

Militants targeted polling stations across much of Iraq and a crowd of Kurds jubilantly dancing on the street as soldiers and security forces cast ballots Monday, two days ahead of the parliamentary elections, officials said.

The early balloting for police and soldiers is meant to free up the 1 million-strong military and security forces so they can protect polling stations and voters on election day.

Members of Iraq's anti-terrorism force stand guard outside a polling station in Baghdad
Members of Iraq's anti-terrorism force stand guard outside a polling station in Baghdad, April 29, 2014, one day ahead of Iraq's first general election since U.S. troops withdrew.
Getty
Iraq is experiencing a surge in sectarian violence, with Sunni militants increasingly chiefly targeting security forces, army troops and members of the nation's Shiite majority. The resurgence of the bloodletting, which nearly tore Iraq apart in 2006 and 2007, underscores the precarious politics of a democratic, but splintered nation.

It also mirrors the three-year-old conflict in neighboring Syria, where the civil war pits forces loyal to President Bashar Assad whose powerbase stems from followers of a Shiite offshoot sect, against mostly Sunni Arab rebels whose ranks are dominated by Islamists and militants from al Qaeda-inspired or linked groups. Iraqi Shiite militiamen fight on the side of Assad's forces.

Voters in Wednesday's polls are widely expected to cast ballots along sectarian and ethnic lines.

But balloting will not take place in parts of the vast and mostly Sunni Anbar province west of Baghdad, where al Qaeda spin-off militants control parts of two cities, including the provincial capital, Ramadi.

Beside army troops and police, also voting on Monday were hospital patients, medical staff and detainees.

Abroad, Iraqi expatriates in more than 20 countries will also be able to cast ballots for a second day.

Authorities, meanwhile, announced the closure of Iraq's air space, saying it will not reopen until after the polls close on Wednesday evening. Already, the government has decreed a weeklong national holiday to coincide with the elections, extending a previously announced three-day break. Such moves were common in past elections, chiefly to empty the streets and allow security forces faster access to attack sites.

A ban on vehicles will take effect on Tuesday night in Baghdad and stay in force throughout election day on Wednesday, a precautionary measure used in past voting to guard against car bombings.

At one central Baghdad polling station, policemen went through four ID checks and search stations before they could enter the building on Monday. Inside, police dogs were used to search for explosives. Some policemen came to cast votes dressed in civilian clothes to attract less attention.


Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.