Iraq: Seven die as early voting for primary elections begins
The first day of voting for Iraq's primary elections was marred by continued violence on Monday in the nation's capital as three Iraqi civilians and three Iraqi policemen were killed, according to Iraqi police sources. A roadside bomb that exploded next to a US army patrol also killed one American soldier south of Baghdad, a US military statement said.
Two of the civilians were killed when a car bomb exploded near a police station in the eastern district of the city. 15 others were wounded in the attack, including five policemen.
Three other policemen as well as another Iraqi civilian died in a firefight in western Baghdad between Iraqi police and gunmen. Nine other people were also wounded in the clash, which occurred in the Ghazalia region of the capital, according to Reuters.
Parliamentary elections begin
Monday's incidents come as early elections for Iraq's new parliament began with hospital patients, military camps and prisoners who have not been convicted of crimes spearheading the vote. The vote comes ahead of Iraq's general elections, in which the rest of the nation's 15 million eligible voters will vote on December 15.
The parliament elected will be the first constitutional parliament in Iraq since the 2003 collapse of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Iraq's borders have been closed for two days in preparation for the vote in the hope of thwarting any possible violence which may occur to disrupt the vote. Travel restrictions and curfews have also been imposed.
Bayan Jabr, Iraq's Interior Minister told reporters, "We are very prepared for the elections, and we are highly determined", according to the AP.
"We hope that everyone participates and that it will be a safe day. ... We are at a historic juncture," he added.
The parliamentary vote is one which the United States hopes will help quell widespread violence which Iraq has experienced by winning the support of the nation's disaffected Sunni minority.
Approximately 1.5 million Iraqi citizens living outside the country can vote over a two-day period at polling centers in 15 countries across the world.
The 275-member parliament will serve a four-year term, and then choose a new government.
Saddam Hussein is also eligible to vote, though it is unclear whether or not he will choose to do so, as he maintains that Iraq's current leadership is illegitimate.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)