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Iraqi Authorities Distribute Cards for Elections


Baghdad – Iraq’s election commission said Saturday that it has not yet decided how it will distribute voter ID cards in the embattled western province of Anbar, barely two months before the country’s first election since the 2011 withdrawal of the U.S. forces.The statement highlights the difficulties faced by Iraqi authorities in conducting elections following nearly a year of deteriorating security. Violence has spiked since last April, reaching levels unseen since the worst of the country’s sectarian bloodletting began to subside in 2008.

On Saturday, militants launched separate attacks in central and eastern Iraq, killing at least 14 people and wounding nearly two dozen.The same day, Independent High Electoral Commission official Aziz al-Kheikani said the distribution began in four new provinces including the capital Baghdad in preparation for the April 30 ballot. Voters in 13 of Iraq’s 18 provinces began to receive cards, which contain a computer chip, three weeks ago.

The cards are designed to make voting more transparent. Several Iraqi political blocs alleged that some people voted multiple times in the last vote in 2010, although the results of the election were not widely disputed.Al-Kheikani said authorities will decide “soon” on when and how to distribute the cards in the remaining province, Anbar.

Fierce clashes pitting government security forces and allied Sunni tribal militias against a coalition of insurgents have been raging in western Iraq’s Anbar province since late December. An al-Qaida offshoot and other insurgent groups have taken control of the city of Fallujah and parts of the provincial capital, Ramadi. Thousands of families have left and government offices have shut down.

Insurgent attacks continue outside Anbar as well. On Saturday, two bombs targeted a four-vehicle patrol in the town of al-Saadiyah, 140 kilometers (90 miles) northeast of Baghdad, a police officer said. Later militants opened fire on the troops after the bombing.Four military officers and five soldiers were killed, while four soldiers were wounded, he added.(AP)

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