Iraq election: Security forces vote early, smiling and proud
Though several more bombs underscored the persistent insurgent threat to the Iraq election, the attitude among security forces – many of whom couldn't safely wear their uniform in public three years ago – was light-hearted.
Shrapnel had partially blinded Ali al-Tamimi, and both of his legs were broken in several places.Skip to next paragraph
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But not even 24 hours after being injured in a suicide bombing northeast of Baghdad, Mr. Tamimi cast a ballot from his hospital bed, joining hundreds of thousands of other Iraqis who voted Thursday in an early round reserved for security forces, detainees, and hospital patients who might not be able to make it to the polls for Sunday's parliamentary election.
The early voting highlighted three mainstays of an Iraqi election day: the resilience of voters, in this case the nation's beleaguered security forces; sectarian-laced allegations of electoral fraud; and the determination of militants to disrupt the process. Attacks near polling stations in Baghdad killed at least 12 people Thursday and wounded more than 45, authorities said.
Bombs underscore persistent insurgent threat
The day belonged foremost to Iraqi police, military and other security forces, who are the nation's first defense now that US forces have pulled out of major cities in preparation for a full withdrawal by the end of next year. Baghdad's streets were mostly empty due to a public holiday, allowing military trucks to deliver clapping, chanting Iraqi troops to vote at heavily guarded polling places.
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 people 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.
In the Bab al Muatham attack, casualties could have been far higher were it not for the last deed of Iraqi army Capt. Faisal Shahad Jasim, who rushed the bomber and tackled him before he could enter the polling station, Iraqi state television reported. Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki awarded Jasim a posthumous promotion of two ranks.
Registration flap underlines sectarian tensions
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 solidified the doubts many Sunnis have about an electoral process that Shiite Muslims and Kurds are overseeing.
To avoid a controversy with sectarian undertones, Iraqi election officials 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 as election officials scrambled to get the correct rolls.