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As Iraq election election begins, Sunnis decry signs of possible fraud

Iraqi election officials are scrambling to address the complaints of security officials in the mostly Sunni Anbar province, who said that the names of thousands of police and military personnel were missing from polling stations or were registered at voting sites up to 250 miles away.

By Hannah AllamMcClatchy Newspapers / March 4, 2010

Iraq election: Iraqi policemen show their ink-stained fingers after voting outside a polling station in Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, Thursday.

Ali Abu Shish/Reuters

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Baghdad

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi security forces voted in early elections throughout Iraq today, as bombing attacks near polling stations killed at least 12 people and wounded 45.

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Thursday’s voting was restricted to police, the military, detainees, hospital patients, and other Iraqis who will be unable to reach polling stations Sunday, the general Election Day.

A Katyusha rocket landed near a closed polling station in the Baghdad neighborhood of Hurriyah, killing five people and wounding 10, police said. Two suicide bombers wearing explosives vests struck in separate incidents in Baghdad – one in Mansour killed at least three and wounded 25; another in Bab al Muatham killed four and wounded 10, according to police. Both attacks occurred outside polling stations where Iraqi security forces were voting.

Apart from the violence, early voting highlighted some of the variables that could blight the polls this weekend.

Security officials in the mostly Sunni Muslim western Anbar province complained that the names of thousands of police and military personnel were missing from polling stations or were registered at voting sites up to 250 miles away. The flap only hardened the doubts many Sunnis harbor about an electoral process overseen by Shiite Muslims and Kurds.

To avoid a controversy with sectarian undertones, Iraqi election officials quickly announced that security forces who couldn’t find their names on voter rolls would be allowed to cast provisional ballots. Voting hours also were extended in some areas where the disputes occurred as election officials scrambled to get the correct rolls.

“It’s the fault of the ministries of interior and defense for not providing us with the added names of military personnel and police. They didn’t provide all the names for the special vote,” said Qassim al Aboudi, a senior official on Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission, the body supervising elections.

-- Special correspondents Mohammed al Dulaimy in Baghdad and Jamal Naji in Fallujah contributed.

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