Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Security is ramped up as crucial Iraqi voting begins

BAGHDAD — Iraq closed its airspace, sealed its borders and banned traffic in major cities as voting began today in key provincial elections, which many Iraqis hope will help stabilize their country.

The draconian security measures were a reminder of the threat of violence despite recent improvements in the country. On Thursday, three Sunni candidates were gunned down, the latest example of the dangers facing candidates campaigning openly for the first time since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime.

U.S. officials hope the balloting will give the Sunnis a fairer share of power and thus undermine the appeal of the insurgency. Results are not expected for several days.

It could take weeks of dealmaking to determine which parties have gained control of key areas such as Baghdad, the Shiite-dominated south and former insurgent strongholds of western Anbar province.

Traffic bans were ordered for Baghdad and other major cities. The closely monitored frontiers with Iran and Syria were among borders that were sealed. A nighttime curfew also was in place, apparently to block extremist groups that plant roadside bombs under cover of darkness.

Double-ring cordons at thousands of polling sites — in schools, offices and civic centers — stretched from the foothills in the far north to the Persian Gulf in the south. Female teachers and other civilians were recruited to help search for possible female suicide bombers.

Today's contest is the first electoral test of the progress made since the surge of U.S. troops in 2007. The full-scale clampdown brought back an aura of some of Iraq's most unstable days, including the 2005 elections, which many observers believe set the stage for sectarian violence a year later. Those elections helped create the rivalries that propelled Iraq into a state of virtual civil war in 2006-07, fueling widespread disappointment with the democratic process.

On the streets, however, the mood was upbeat, with most Iraqis saying they planned to vote, in the hope of setting the country on a new course.

"We want to open a new chapter," said Sarah Haitham, 21, an unemployed fine arts graduate.

By the numbers

15 million Iraqis eligible to vote

14,000 Candidates running

440 Seats open on provincial councils, the equivalent of state legislatures

4 Candidates who have been killed in the run-up to the election, three of them on Thursday and one on Jan. 16

Blackwater Worldwide is out

The State Department will not renew Blackwater Worldwide's contract to protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq when it expires in May. The Iraqi government denied Blackwater a license after a 2007 shooting in Baghdad that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead.

Security is ramped up as crucial Iraqi voting begins 01/30/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 30, 2009 11:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. World's plastic waste could bury Manhattan 2 miles deep

    Environment

    WASHINGTON — Industry has made more than 9.1 billion tons of plastic since 1950 and there's enough left over to bury Manhattan under more than 2 miles of trash, according to a new cradle-to-grave global study.

    Plastic trash is compacted into bales ready for further processing at the waste processing dump on the outskirts of Minsk, Belarus.
  2. Sen. John McCain's type of cancer did not slow Tampa woman

    Health

    TAMPA —When 35-year-old Beth Caldwell heard about Sen. John McCain's brain tumor this week, she hoped he would stay positive.

    That's what helped her, she said.

    Beth Caldwell, 35, and her sons Gavin, 10, and Triston, 7. Caldwell had surgery to remove an aggressive brain tumor three years ago. [Photo Courtesy of Beth Caldwell]
  3. A week later, the lengthy, costly rebuilding plan for the Pasco sinkhole begins

    Public Safety

    LAND O'LAKES — A week after a massive sinkhole opened in Pasco County, county officials have begun planning the long-term cleanup, which could take months and millions of dollars.

    A sinkhole in Land O'Lakes, Fla., is seen Wednesday, July 19, 2017. The sinkhole ?‘ already one of the largest in Pasco County in decades ?‘ measures about 235 feet in width and 50 feet in depth, with the potential to expand further.
  4. Dade City's Wild Things blocks PETA officials at gates for court-ordered site inspection

    Wildlife

    Times Staff Writer

    DADE CITY — Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show.

    Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show. This comes four days after 19 Wild Things tigers arrived at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. A judge had granted an emergency injunction July 14, ordering Stearns not remove any tigers pending the upcoming PETA inspection. Photo from Facebook page of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.
  5. St. Petersburg City Council approves $326 million sewage fix

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Last week the City Council learned no criminal charges would result from the up to 200 million gallons of sewage St. Petersburg's sewer system released from …

    [LARA CERRI  |  Times]