Baghdad Bombings Shatter Festive Pre-Vote Atmosphere

Baghdad – Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi security forces voted in early elections Thursday throughout the country, as bomb attacks near polling stations killed at least 12 people and wounded 45.

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

A Katyusha rocket landed near a closed polling station in Baghdad’s Hurriyah neighborhood, 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.

Apart from the violence, the 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 officers 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 that many Sunnis harbor about an electoral process that Shiite Muslims and Kurds are overseeing.

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 that’s supervising the elections.

McClatchy special correspondents Mohammed al Dulaimy in Baghdad and Jamal Naji in Fallujah contributed to this article.