Iraqi Voters Seek Secure Nation

An Iraqi soldier searches a voter at a school used as a polling station during Iraq's parliamentary elections 15 December 2005, in Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad. Iraqis streamed to the polls amid relative peace Thursday in a legislative vote many hope will heal a nation wracked by sectarian conflict and bring minority Sunnis back into the political process. AFP PHOTO/SAMUEL ARANDA (Photo credit should read SAMUEL ARANDA/AFP/Getty Images) AFP/Getty Images

From women in black veils to sheiks in white headdresses, voters across much of Iraq, but especially insurgent-infested areas, seemed to all want the same thing: security.

The lull in violence Thursday gave some voters, and some U.S. commanders, the hope that security might be improving and the Sunni Arab-dominated insurgency weakening.

But others believed the quiet may instead have represented a politically savvy move by resilient militants, who are increasingly careful to protect their local support, and thus refrained from violence because of Sunni Arab intentions to vote.

Many people noted there also was a lull in violence after elections Jan. 30, but insurgents roared back to action, carrying out a wave of bloody suicide bombings in the spring.

"We hope the security situation will get better, that's why I'm here," Mufrak Saoud Dahid, a Sunni Arab, said after voting in Baqouba, a town in ethnically diverse Diyala province where Iraqi troops have started confronting insurgents without U.S. help.

"If the next government is honest and not corrupt, that will definitely improve security," he added.

CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier reports that 70 percent of Baghdad is now policed solely by Iraqis with American soldiers nearby, but out of sight — a far cry from last January.

But, the insurgency has killed thousands and wounded many others the past 30 months. Car bombs and suicide attacks have spread fear by targeting mosques, churches, police stations, religious pilgrims and funerals. Theft and kidnapping for ransom also are common.

Tens of thousands of well-off Iraqis have moved away, mainly going to neighboring Syria and Jordan to give their families a normal life. Those who cannot afford to go are reluctant to venture from home.

Hussein Ali Abbas, a 66-year-old Shiite wearing a red-and-white Arab headdress, said after casting his ballot in Baghdad that "the first thing we want from the new government is security."
  • Sean Alfano

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