LIVE BLOG: Polls now closed in Iraq after day of bombings

McClatchy NewspapersMarch 7, 2010 

10 p.m. Most of the explosions Sunday came from dozens of plastic water bottles that had been packed with explosives and left in garbage cans and near curbs along routes to polling stations, according to the U.S. military.

"Think of 2-liter Coke bottles. Then they put explosives inside with a timer, and use a remote-control detonator," said Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq. "t really is a crude device."

Lanza said the water-bottle bombs caused most of the early-morning booms that woke Baghdad residents up before 7 a.m. Sunday and continued in quick succession until early afternoon. He said they were "designed more for psychological effect than lethality."

7 p.m. The high commission for elections security announces a curfew starting one hour from now, at 8 p.m. and ends at 5 a.m.

6:35 p.m. Violence in Baghdad Throughout the day about 100 projectiles slammed into Baghdad and 13 bombs exploded among these attacks there were stun bombs. 38 civilians were killed and 89 others were injured, according to a source in Iraq’s ministry of interior.

6 p.m. Press Conference for Iraqi Security Forces Qassim Atta, the spokesman of Baghdad operations command, said: "Most of the attacks were IEDs and stun bombs. They intended to frighten the people – But, thank God they failed. All parties bore witness to the competence and neutrality of the Iraqi security forces."

Ayden Khalid, head of the high committee for elections security, said: "The ballot boxes will be transferred – Rest assured that there will be mixed forces supervising the operation to ensure that no elections fraud is committed" "Curfew upon vehicles, in Baghdad was to have been imposed at 10 p.m. but will now be imposed at 8 p.m. in order to guarantee the safe delivery of the boxes to the ballot counting centres."

Atta said: "The polling centre that was targeted in Mahmoudiyah, today, was transported to the adjacent building in the presence of the security forces, the representatives of the parties and the various monitors. And voting resumed normally"

"Many of the attacks were stun bombs. Seventeen stun bombs were detonated in Baghdad today."

5:40 p.m. A mortar shell hit a polling center in Mahmoudiyah town south of Baghdad killing one and injuring seven. Elections officials had to move the polling center to the adjacent building.

The casualties figure for the destroyed apartment building in Shaab neighborhood became 25 killed and injured 19 others

A mortar shell slammed into Al Sariyah school, a polling center, south of Baquba causing damages to the building.

5:20 p.m. Eight representatives of the major Shiite alliance left polling centers after not allowing all of them to enter to polling centers. Elections official wanted one to enter to polling center not all of them.

5000 internal displaced living in Diyala couldn’t vote because they were not registered according to elections commission office in Diyala.

5 p.m. This is the cut-off time for voting. Election officials will allow those still in line to vote, but will not process anyone else who arrives after 5 p.m.

4:50 p.m. 10 minutes to close all polling centers all over Iraq.

4:45 p.m.

In a note to several news organizations, U.S. Maj. Gen. Steve Lanza, spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, said reports of casualties are exaggerated and urged reporters to check with Iraqi authorities. Lanza wrote, “As the day has progressed, we’ve seen attempts to dissuade voters from going to the polls, but we've also seen those attempts fail. Iraqis are voting and incidences of violence have, for the most part, stopped as of late this morning.

4:30 p.m.

15 Iraqi killed and 20 injured, according to Iraqi ministry of defense

Major General Mohammed Al Askari, Iraqi ministry of defense spokesman: “Gunmen used mortars and stun bombs and the aim was to frighten people and shake their will to go to the polling centers and the truth of the matter only six mortar rounds hit Baghdad, one of them caused damages and the rest were minor and so far casualties stand at 15 killed and 20 injured.

The armed groups took advantage of the first two hours of day break when the visibility was poor because of the dust and the fog which impair the effectiveness of the drones but after 9 a.m. the weather cleared and the drowns became very effective and the sources of fire were pinpointed from the eastern and southern suburbs of Baghdad.

Since 9 a.m. Iraqi security forces were able to locate and defuse 54 bombs inside Baghdad.

4:15 p.m. - McClatchy correspondents in Mosul and Baquba are reporting that more voters are heading to cast their votes.

Al Anbar - Iraqi security forces closed Ibn Massoud polling center in Ameriya area south west of Fallujah after a hand fight between tribal men and some violations in the polling center, said an official in the center.

4 p.m. Shams elections monitoring group coordinator Hukar Jeto said: “Our monitors were not allowed to enter to Permam resort to monitor elections and conduct their duty” Permam resort is the headquarter of the leadership of Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the presidency of the region.

3:48 p.m. Ayn al Iraq, an Iraqi election monitoring group, announced that turnout was 50 percent and increasing for all of Iraq. The independent group is also calling on IHEC, the electoral commission, to reopen some polling centers that were closed in Mosul because of violence.

3:30 p.m. Sherzad Abu Bakr, a leader in Change movement, the leading opposition Kurdish movement, accused the mayor of Sayed Awa town near Erbil of threatening the representative of Change movement in the electoral commission. He said: “The official threatened our representative when he protested violations, and later the representative left the polling center out of fear.” “The Kurdistan alliance is conducting many violations, they are pressuring the electoral commission employees to let those who have not been included in the register to vote and they are using buses to bring voters to the polling centers to vote for the list.” Mohammed Al Mulla Qadir, a prominent member in KDP, responded to these statements: “Some are claiming there was forging and violations, but the Democratic Party has many supporters and needs no forging.” He also said: “All the competing lists and entities cannot win half of what the Kurdistan Alliance can win. Who claims there were violations should present a complaint.”

2:20 p.m. Fouad Salim, a representative of the Assyrian Movement in a polling center, said that voters in Tel Esquf, a Christian town east of Mosul that's under the control of the Kurdish militia, were asked by Kurdish party (KDP) militiamen to vote for them and that there was intimidation of the displaced Christians who had to leave Mosul.

2:10 p.m. McClatchy reporters in Ur neighborhood in Baghdad watched Iraqi firemen and rescuers, along with Iraqi police and army, digging out bodies from the rubble of an apartment building that collapsed this morning after an explosion. Rescuers are hearing cries of help from a woman and trying to reach her. They removed some rubble and found a hand with a ring on it, and what appeared to be a woman's leg.

Iraqi President's Statement Iraqi President Jalal Talbani said after voting in Sulaimaniyah “I don’t think that the elections will change the political map in Iraq, there might be simple changing but I believe the main powers that are ruling now are the ones that will rule in the future along with other powers that want to participate in ruling” He called to a wide participation and said about being nominated as a president: “President Barzani nominated me to be a president again and also the major powers in Iraq asked me to do so”

1:45 p.m. Three roadside bombs exploded in Kirkuk and around it causing no casualties. Also in Kirkuk police defused a parked car bomb and a rocket prepared to launch, said Brigadier General Abdul Qadir Sarhad.

A roadside bomb exploded in Julan neighborhood in Fallujah

1:10 p.m.

- Iraqi army soldiers killed two gunmen while they were trying to plant a roadside bomb in a town near Jalawla in Diyala province.

- Iraqi military said that 36 bombs exploded in Diyala today and four other mortars.

- A mortar shell landed in Al Julan neighborhood in Fallujah.

- An Iraqi army officer said that airplanes dropped flyers urging not to vote for Ayad Allawi list, a secular Shiite. The officer asked not to be named.

1 p.m. A roadside bomb exploded near a polling center in central Baquba injuring two children.

Electoral commission officials order a monitor of Iraq’s Unity Alliance, a political alliance competing in elections, to leave a polling center south of Basra for practicing propaganda for his party.

12:45 p.m. Mosques in Mosul are calling upon citizens to participate in elections because of low participation because the bad security situation and threats. Iraqi army and police vehicles also used loudspeakers to ensure citizens that the security situation is under control. These calls upon citizens were in Arab neighborhoods.

Two citizens were injured when two mortar shells targeted Al Zahra polling center in central Mosul

12:27 p.m. Sumaiya Khudhair Abbas, Tammuz organization, a local monitor said in a phone interview: “Polling centers officials are refusing to let our monitors enter polling centers. The monitors are carry credentials and are authorized to monitor” “We had to wait out of polling centers for three hours till nine p.m. This is worrying” said Abbas.

12:23 p.m.

Voters in Al Anbar province from Haditha, Qaem and Fallujah told McClatchy correspondents that some Iraqi army soldiers are not allowing authorized vehicles to reach to polling centers.

12:15 p.m.

Adnan Al Zurfi, governor of Najaf province, told McClatchy: “There are more than three thousand voters couldn’t find their names to vote. This is a breach of law and it is a failure of the high electoral commission to conduct its duties. We made calls trying to solve this problem but the commission did not find a solution for the problem”

12:10 p.m.

On Palestine Street in Baghdad McClatchy cars carrying McClatchy reporters stopped in a checkpoint along with an ambulance. The ambulance driver opened the back of the vehicle and it was carrying three civilian bodies killed in an explosion in Ur neighborhood and the driver said between 10 to 12civilians were killed and this is his second trip

11:55 a.m.

Diyala - Two mortar shells landed near a voting center in Abdul Jabar town, south west of Baquba. - Two bombs exploded near voting centers in Muradiayh town without casualties. - Ten bombs exploded in Saadiyah town, north of Baquba. No casualties. - Four bombs exploded in Baladrouz, 30 miles east of Baquba, targeting polling centers. No casualties. - A roadside bomb targeted the office of the National Movement, a political party, in Baladrouz damaging the office.

Fallujah

Two mortar shells landed near a polling center in Sicher town, north of Fallujah. Three other mortar shells landed near a polling center in Garma. The two attacks caused no injuries

11:45 a.m At a polling station in Karrada, Naji Shalghem, a Libyan, who is the Arab league’s envoy to Iraq, is and international monitor and has visited four polling stations today. He said that the Arab league General Secretary Amr Moussa gave instructions to participate fully in the monitoring process, emphasizing a role for Iraq’s fellow Arab nations. “We are the Arab league; we are here to bring Iraq back to his environment and to embrace Iraq. I am not talking diplomacy, I am talking reality. I am talking from my heart”

11:35 a.m.

- Iraq’s elections’ committee decides to end curfew all over Iraq, except Nineveh, allowing personal cars to move and banning trucks and buses.

Elections Day 11:25 a.m. Update

- Reports from Iraqi provinces say increased numbers of voters defying threats and attacks.

- Arab league monitors tour in different voting centers. Ahmed Abu Al Esh, Egyptian , Arab league international monitor, visited a voting center in Najaf and told journalists they are comfortable to see the voting process is “going well”.

- Iraqi parties’ satellite channels continue to broadcast songs to urge people to vote.

11:15 a.m. Update

- Cancelling curfew in Thi Qar province.

- Lines of voters are increasing in Karrada neighborhood; voters said they felt it is their duty to vote despite the attacks throughout Baghdad.

- Many voters in Yarmouk neighborhood, in west Mosul, are not voting after gunmen threatened residents not to vote yesterday.

- Numbers of voters in Baquba started to increase and Iraqi army and police vehicles are using loudspeakers to play songs that urge people to vote.

11 a.m.

Baghdad Violence

- Roadside bomb targeted voters in Madaen south of Baghdad injuring two voters.

- A Katusha rocket slammed into Great neighborhood injuring 10 civilians.

- A Katusha rocket landed in Hurriyah neighborhood killing two and injuring 6 other civilians.

- Two roadside bombs exploded near voting centers in Al Jihad neighborhood killing two and injuring 7.

Tikrit

A roadside bomb exploded near a voting center in Bu Tuama town, 25 miles north of Tikrit, injuring two voters.

Nineveh

Gunmen attacked Qusai Abbas, a member of Nineveh provincial council representing Shabak, in a Kurdish controlled town of Al Khazna, 9 miles east of Mosul. Abbas received several gunshots in his chest and is hospitalized in Mosul.

- Gunmen attacked a voting center using a hand grenade in central Mosul. No casualties.

Diyala

- Two roadside bombs exploded near voting centers in Burgha, 1 mile south of Baquba. No injuries.

10:35 a.m.

- Elections Security committee decide to allow personal cars to tour in Baghdad and continue banning buses and trucks from moving.

10:30 a.m.

- Small groups of voters can be seen in Karrada heading towards voting centers. In Fallujah groups of people started heading towards voting centers responding to mosques calls to go to vote.

- Iraqi civil defense men are still trying to rescue families in the destroyed building in west Baghdad.

- Around 8:30 a.m. A mortar shell slammed near a voting center in Al Khadhraa neighborhood, eastern Mosul. No casualties.

- Around 9 a.m. Iraqi army soldiers outside Fallujah city stopped groups of voters from entering the city. Mohammed Abdullah, a voter, said the soldiers ordered them to turn around and go back home.

- Five mortar shells slammed into Sicher town, 5 miles north of Fallujah. No casualties were reported, around 9:30.

- A bomb place in garbage dumpster exploded in central Fallujah near Al Jumhuria high school causing no casualties.

Diyala

Around 8:30 a.m. a mortar shell landed near a voting center in Buhruz town causing no casualties.

Tikrit

Iraqi security forces allowed cars to move inside Tikrit city.

Five mortar shells landed near Al Rafeie voting center in Beiji town causing no casualties around 8:30 a.m.

Mosul

Around 8:30 a.m. mortar shells slammed into Al Bakr neighborhood in eastern Mosul causing no casualties.

American helicopters could be seen in Baghdad after series of attacks that hit the capital as soon as the elections started. American planes also could be heard in Mosul and Fallujah.

Tikrit, Salahuddin

Around 8 a.m.

Security forces found a parked car bomb inside the former presidential palaces that are used as headquarters for security forces. The car was detonated under control.

A roadside bomb targeted civilians walking towards a voting center in Bayji town, 25 miles east of Tikrit.

Fallujah, Al Anbar Province

Around 8:30 a.m. sixth explosion took place inside Fallujah when a bomb placed in a garbage dumpster in Al Muhandseen neighborhood causing no casualties. Four mortar shells slammed into the city in four different places earlier this mornining.

Around 9 a.m. Fallujah mosques started calling upon people to not be intimidated and told people through loudspeakers fixed on the mosques minarets "Take your families and cast you vote, it is your enemies' plans to stop you from going to vote."

Basra

Iraqi High Electoral Commission in Basra decided to open eight extra voting stations for displaced people inside Basra.

BAGHDAD — Blasts rocked Baghdad from the moment polls opened at 7 a.m. Sunday (11 p.m. Saturday) in what appeared to be an insurgent campaign to keep Iraqis from voting in parliamentary election.

Throughout the capital, at least 30 booms of all sizes could be heard from early morning, followed by the sounds of ambulances and police cars. Iraqi police say the explosions were a mix of mortars and homemade bombs. Police say at least five people were killed and more than 14 injured, according to early casualty tolls.

“This will not affect Iraqis’ dedication to vote,” Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki told reporters after he voted inside the heavily fortified Green Zone compound.

The blasts weren’t limited to Baghdad. Iraqi authorities and witnesses reported similar explosions near voting centers in other provinces. In the restive city of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, polling stations were attacked by three homemade bombs and two mortar shells, with no reports of casualties so far. In Fallujah, the former insurgent stronghold in the western Anbar province, five large explosions were reported, with no word yet on casualties.

U.S. and Iraqi officials had pinned hopes on a calm election season, a factor in whether U.S. forces could keep to the Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawing America combat brigades. The elections, in which 6,200 candidates are vying for 325 parliament seats, will open a months-long effort to form a new governmert.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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