Insurgents kill several people in Baghdad as Iraq's parliamentary elections start

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

At least 24 people died today in Baghdad as dozens of mortars were fired throughout the city, destroying at least two buildings. The incidents occurred just as Iraq's parliamentary election commenced. The election is the second since Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003. 6,200 candidates are competing for 325 parliament seats in the election.

If we had to crawl, we would crawl in order to vote.

—Ali Abdul Wahab, resident of Baghdad

Insurgents have promised to disrupt the elections by means of violence to show their opposition to America and the Shiite-led Iraqi government. A group linked to al-Qaeda distributed leaflets in the capital advising people against going to vote. Polling opened at 7 AM (local time) and immediately bombs were detonated and mortar rounds landed throughout the city.

In Shurta, West Baghdad, twelve were confirmed dead, and rescue workers saved twenty from the debris of a demolished building. Across the Tigris River, in East Baghdad, five were killed in a blast at a residential building. The Green Zone, the area that hosts the U.S. Embassy and the Prime Minister's office, was also hit by mortar rounds. Seven others died in various parts of the nation. No polling stations were hit.

Nouri Maliki, the present Prime Minister, called for a strong turnout to boost democracy in the country. Although violence in Iraq is much reduced from its peak, hundreds of people are dying each month even now and the country continues to have poor infrastructure.

To prevent attacks, the border with Iran was shut down, several troops deployed, and movement of unauthorized vehicles banned, leaving Baghdad's roads almost empty. Despite this, people continued to head to the polls. "If we had to crawl, we would crawl in order to vote," said a resident, Ali Abdul Wahab, though according to him: "anyone we vote for will be bad."

On Saturday, a car bomb detonated near a parking lot used by pilgrims in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, killed three. Two Iranians and an Iraqi were those who died in the attack, only about 300 yards from the Imam Ali shrine, a holy site in Shiite Islam. 54 people were wounded, of whom 19 were Iranians.