Violence rocks Iraq vote

Times of Oman - International News
(Sunday, January 30, 2005)
Violence rocks Iraq vote

BAGHDAD -- A suicide bomber struck in an upmarket neighbourhood of Baghdad on Sunday and mortar attacks and gunfire erupted around the country as Iraqis went to the polls for their first free election in 50 years.

One person was killed and four others wounded when a bomber blew himself up near a polling centre in Baghdad's upmarket Mansur district in the western part of the capital, the interior ministry said.

Police and soldiers had stopped the bomber as he tried to enter the sealed-off cordon around the polling station when the attacker detonated his explosives belt, a US military officer said.

US commanders have warned of suicide attacks, car bombs and mortar and rocket fire on Iraq's first election since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein almost two years ago as insurgents try to wreck the milestone event.

Six explosions jolted the northern Iraqi city of Mosul although the general hospital had no immediate word on casualties. Heavy security was in place around polling stations in the city, driven by insurgent violence since November.

Iraqi soldiers surrounded polling stations, and it was difficult for people to move around the city. At one polling centre in northern Mosul visited by AFP the station was deserted except for the workers inside.

Arms fire also reverberated in the northern flashpoint city of Baquba, an AFP correspondent said, as the streets remained empty shortly after the opening of polls.

It was not clear what was the cause of shooting in the city that has been the site of fierce clashes in the past between US forces and insurgents.

One voting centre at the Al-Hussan bin-Ali school in central Baquba was empty as US armoured vehicles cruised the city. In the southern city of Basra, a mortar shell landed near a polling station but there were no reports of casualties.


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