Iraq Vote Count, Query Continue

Iraqi electoral workers load ballot boxes on a truck before sending them to be counted in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2005. Iraq's electoral commission said Monday it intended to audit an "unusually high" vote count from most provinces in the country's landmark referendum on the draft constitution. AP

A sandstorm that had closed Baghdad's airport cleared Tuesday, allowing officials to resume flying ballot boxes to the capital Tuesday so "unusually high" vote totals in 12 Shiite and Kurdish provinces can be checked by election officials.

The investigation by Iraq's election commission has raised the possibility that the results of the referendum could be called into question. As many as 99 percent of the voters reportedly approved Iraq's draft constitution in some of the provinces being investigated.

As CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey reports, some initial results showed almost no turnout in some Sunni areas and as high as 66 percent in others,

Meanwhile, insurgents resumed attacks that had fallen sharply during Saturday's vote at heavily protected polling stations across the country.

Militants killed five Iraqis on Tuesday, including an adviser to one of the country's top Sunni Arab officials who was shot while driving to work in Baghdad, police said. The handcuffed and mutilated bodies of six Iraqis who had been kidnapped and killed in captivity also were found in three locations of the capital, police said.

In fighting in western Iraq, two U.S. Marines and four militants were killed near the town of Rutba, not far from the Jordanian border, on Monday, the military said. At least 1,978 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

In other developments:

  • Saddam Hussein and seven of his top leaders go on trial Wednesday. The group faces charges involving the 1982 killings of nearly 150 people in retaliation for an assassination attempt on Saddam. Court officials say this case was chosen first because it's the easiest to assemble. Other cases are more complicated and have many more victims. Saddam and his co-defendants are expected to hear the charges against them and the court will address procedural matters. The trial is then expected to be adjourned for several weeks.

  • The U.S. military said 18 insurgents were killed during fighting on Sunday and Monday in three separate areas of Iraq's western Anbar province, where militants often are active. No American casualties resulted.

    Adil al-Lami, head of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that ballot boxes were arriving from the provinces and that employees had resumed counting.

    "If we suspect that the numbers are higher or lower than we expected, we have to double-check them, and this audit means it might be several more days before we announce the final outcome," he said. "We are not concerned whether the outcome is `yes' or `no.' We are only interested in making the process technically a success."

    He said the commission is "a neutral body" acting "as a referee."

    The investigation by the commission in Iraq's landmark referendum has raised questions about irregularities in the balloting.

    Word of the review came Monday as Sunni Arab leaders repeated accusations of fraud after initial reports from the provinces suggested the constitution had passed. Among the Sunni allegations are that police took ballot boxes from heavily "no" districts, and that some "yes" areas had more votes than registered voters.
    • Joel Roberts

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