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Shiite Alliance Wins Iraq Election

The election commission announced Friday that an alliance of Shiite religious parties won the biggest number of seats in Iraq's new parliament but too few to rule without coalition partners. Sunni Arabs gained seats over the previous balloting.

Safwat Rasheed, an election official, announced that the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance captured 128 of the 275 seats in the Dec. 15 election, down from the 146 it won in the January 2005 balloting.

A Sunni ticket, the Iraqi Accordance Front, won 44 seats. Another Sunni coalition headed by Saleh al-Mutlaq finished with 11 seats, Rasheed said. A few other Sunnis won seats on other tickets.

That will give the Sunni Arabs a bigger voice in the legislature than they had in the outgoing assembly, which included only 17 from the community which forms the backbone of the insurgency. Many Sunnis had boycotted the January vote.

Kurds saw their seat total reduced. An alliance of the two major Kurdish parties won 53 seats, down from the 75 they took in the Jan. 2005 election.

A rival Kurdish ticket, the Kurdish Islamic Group, won five seats, a gain of three from the outgoing parliament.

A ticket headed by secular Shiite former prime minister Ayad Allawi won 25 seats, down from 40 in the outgoing assembly.

  • Prominent Sunni politician Adnan al-Dulaimi appealed Friday for the release of American journalist Jill Carroll and urged U.S. and Iraqi forces to stop arresting Iraqi women as a deadline set by the reporter's kidnappers was set to elapse. Al-Dulaimi promised to work for the release of all female prisoners but warned that failure to set Carroll free would "undermine and hamper my efforts." The kidnappers had threatened to kill Carroll, 28, unless all female detainees are freed by Friday.
  • A roadside bomb exploded in central Baghdad's Karradah district on Friday, killing four Iraqi civilians and wounding three, said police Maj. Qussai Ibrahim and Lt. Bilal Ali Hamid. Ibrahim claimed the target of the attack was a passing U.S. military convoy, but American officials had no immediate details on the report.
  • A senior Iraqi police officer and his four bodyguards were kidnapped by armed men, some wearing military uniforms, in a late Thursday ambush outside a Karradah restaurant, police Lt. Mohammed Khayoun said Friday.
  • Eight Iraqi sailors detained by Iran after a weekend clash in a shared waterway were released early Friday, Iraqi officials said, but the body of a ninth sailor had not yet been repatriated. Iraqi officials said the sailors were detained Jan. 14 following a clash between Iraqi and Iranian coast guard ships near the Shatt al-Arab waterway in the Persian Gulf. But Iranian authorities claim there was a clash between Iranian patrol boats and a merchant ship headed toward Iranian waters.

  • Politicians have four days to contest the results, which were largely in line with early, preliminary returns following the balloting. Officials will have another 10 days to study any complaints before they certify the results and parliament can convene to appoint a new government.

    U.S. officials hope that a greater Sunni voice in the new parliament and government will help defuse the insurgency so that American and other international troops can begin to go home.

    The results were announced a day after an international review group reported that the Dec. 15 election was flawed but generally fair considering the country's security crisis. Sunni politicians had demanded the review after raising allegations of fraud. Al-Mutlaq had called for a new election.

    Meanwhile, U.S. and Iraqi troops launched a major military operation in southern Baghdad's Dora neighborhood at dawn Friday in a hunt for two local insurgent leaders believed to control several hundred militants, including non-Iraqi Arabs, said Iraqi Army Gen. Mehdi al-Gharawi.

    A series of loud explosions and repeated bursts of machine gun fire were heard early Friday in the area as the troops hunted suspected militant chiefs Sheik Fathi al-Jibouri and relative Abu Aisha al-Jibouri, al-Gharawi told The Associated Press.

    A U.S. military spokesman, Sgt. Keith Robinson, confirmed that several military operations were underway as part of one overall offensive in southern Baghdad but refused to say more.

    As part of heightened security, Iraq announced a lock-down of all roads leading in and out of Baghdad and the major provinces of Anbar, Diyala, Najaf and Mosul, deploying thousands of extra soldiers and police to man extra checkpoints and conduct patrols.

    The closures are expected to continue Saturday. Only Iraqis returning from performing a Muslim pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia will be able to enter the provinces, said army Capt. Jassim al-Wahish.

    "We have closed the entries and exits of these provinces as a security measure to avoid any chaos or sabotage acts during the release of the elections results," said Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi of the Interior Ministry.

    Despite the clampdown, violence continued.