Kurds Top Allawi Ticket In Votes

AP Image Ingested via Automated Feed AP

A Kurdish ticket pulled into second place ahead of U.S.-backed Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's candidates in Iraq's national election after votes were released Monday from the Kurdish self-governing area of the north. Insurgents struck Iraq's security forces with suicide bombs and mortar fire, killing more than 30 people.

First election returns from the Sunni heartland confirmed on Monday that many Sunnis stayed away from ballot box, leaving the field to Shiite and Kurdish candidates. A Shiite-dominated ticket backed by the Shiite clergy leads among the 111 candidate lists, with a final tally of last week's election for a 275-member National Assembly expected by week's end.

Allawi, who favors strong ties with the United States, had hoped to emerge as a compromise choice for prime minister, but the Shiite cleric-backed ticket say they want one of their own for the top job.

Kurds, estimated at 15-20 percent of the population, gave most of their votes to a joint ticket made up of the two major Kurdish parties, which was in second with about 24 percent of the votes reported as of Monday. One of the Kurdish leaders, Jalal Talabani, has announced his candidacy for the presidency.

Allawi's ticket trailed with about 13 percent of the vote, with the Shiite ticket leading with about half the votes. Shiites comprise about 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people.

Monday's attacks were the latest sign that insurgents are stepping up attacks against Iraq's security forces, which the United States hopes can assume a greater role once a newly elected government takes office. The bombings and kidnappings have shattered a brief downturn in violence after the Jan. 30 elections, the first nationwide balloting since the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003.

In other developments:

  • U.S. troops manning a checkpoint discovered four Egyptian technicians who had been kidnapped the day before in Baghdad, an Egyptian diplomat said. The four were freed and some arrests were made, he added.

  • In Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, a suicide bomber wandered into a crowd of security personnel at a hospital and blew himself up, killing 12 people and wounding seven, U.S. officials said.

  • Insurgents shelled a police station in Mosul with more than a dozen mortar rounds Monday, killing three civilians, police said. And one Iraqi was killed and four others wounded when mortar shells exploded near the City Council building in Samarra, hospital officials said.

  • In Ramadi, an insurgent center west of Baghdad, the body of an Iraqi National Guardsman was found on a city street. Witnesses said he has been shot. Separate postings on a Web site claimed responsibility for the Baqouba and Mosul attacks in the name of al Qaeda in Iraq, the group led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The claims could not be verified.

  • Monday's deadliest attack occurred in Baqouba, where a suicide car bomber exploded his vehicle outside the gates of a provincial police headquarters, killing 15 people and wounding 17, police Col. Mudhahar al-Jubouri said. Many victims were looking for jobs as policemen, al-Jubouri said.

  • Iraqi election commission officials said Monday that more than 15,000 people were unable to vote in the Mosul area because of irregularities. Commission official Izzedine al-Mahmoudi told reporters in Baghdad that 15,188 people in Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh province were unable to cast ballots in Iraq's historic Jan. 30 elections because polling workers did not report to work and election materials ran short.


    Many Sunni Arabs, estimated at 20 percent of the population and the core of the insurgency, are believed to have stayed home on election day, either out of fear of insurgent reprisal or because of a boycott call by Sunni clerics.

    Election officials acknowledged thousands of people in the Sunni-dominated Mosul area who wanted to vote during the balloting were unable to because of security. Fewer than a third of the planned 330 polling centers in Mosul and the surrounding province managed to open on election day, officials said.

    Figures released Monday by the election commission from Salaheddin province, which includes Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, also confirmed suspicions that many Sunnis avoided the polls.

    With results in from 80 percent of the province's polling stations, the United Iraqi Alliance — which is backed by the country's top Shiite clerics — had the most votes with 27,645. The Kurdish Alliance was next with 18,791 votes.

    A party headed by the Sunni Arab president, Ghazi al-Yawer, received only 15,832 votes. The faction led by Allawi, a secular Shiite who ran on a law and order platform, got just over 13,000.

    Salaheddin includes such insurgency flashpoints as Samarra and Beiji, as well as a major American military base at Balad.

    Some Sunni and Christian politicians who participated in the election have accused officials of denying thousands of people the right to vote, especially in Ninevah province, which includes Mosul. They complained polling stations ran out of ballots and voters were turned away.

    Election commission officials acknowledged 15,188 people were unable to vote in one Ninevah town alone, Bartala. They blamed the problems there and elsewhere on the security crisis.

    Officials said only 93 of a planned 330 polling centers opened in Ninevah province. Gunmen looted some polling places, stealing ballot papers, commission official Izzedine al-Mahmoudi said.

    Farooq Mabrouk, chief of the Egyptian mission in Baghdad, gave no details of how the four Egyptian technicians were freed and the U.S. military press office said it had no information.

    "It's the Americans who freed them," Mabrouk said. "They were released and they will come to the embassy."

    The four, who were employed by a subcontractor of an Iraqi mobile telephone company, were seized Sunday in Baghdad.

    Meanwhile, a Web posting in the name of the Jihad Organization pledged to release Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena in a few days because an investigation determined she was not a spy and after an appeal for her freedom by Sunni clerics. The statement's authenticity could not be verified.

    Sgrena, 56, a reporter for the communist daily Il Manifesto, was kidnapped Friday by gunmen who blocked her car outside Baghdad University. An earlier posting by the Jihad Organization claimed responsibility and gave Italy 72 hours to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

    A spokesman for the Iraqi police in Babil province, Capt. Muthana Khalid Ali, withdrew a report that 22 Iraqi security troops and 14 insurgents had been killed Sunday night when insurgents tried to storm a police station in a village near Mahawil south of Baghdad.

    Ali had said the fighting raged for about an hour and five Iraqi national guardsmen and 17 police were killed, as well as 14 insurgents. The U.S. command denied the report, and Ali said Monday he has misread an initial police report.

    He said 12 suspected insurgents were arrested in the village after an ambush killed two Iraqi soldiers and wounded four others.

    • Joel Roberts

    Comments