18 dead as militants hit polling stations in Iraq
Baghdad: Suicide bombers attacked several polling stations and security forces in Iraq on Monday killing at least 18 people and wounding dozens, police said, days before the violence-wracked country holds legislative elections.
The polls are the country`s first since the departure of US troops in late 2011, and they see Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki seeking a third term.
But the election has been overshadowed by attacks on candidates, election workers and political rallies, and parts of the country that have been out of government control for months will not see any ballots cast.
In west Baghdad, an attacker wearing a suicide belt targeted a polling station early Monday as security force personnel queued to vote, killing seven people and wounding 15, a police colonel said.
All of those killed were police officers, a medical official said.
After the blast, police shut off the road and ambulances rushed to and from the scene of the attack, an AFP correspondent said.
Soon after that attack, a suicide bomber targeted a polling centre in Tuz Khurmatu north of Baghdad, killing three policemen and wounding seven, the town`s mayor said.
In the northern city of Kirkuk, a suicide bomber detonated his belt at a voting station, killing six policemen and wounding nine, according to a high-ranking security official.
Elsewhere in Kirkuk, a roadside bomb targeting an army convoy killed one soldier and wounded two.
In the northern city of Mosul, two suicide bombers attacked a polling centre. The first was killed by security forces, but the second detonated his bomb, wounding three police officers and two soldiers, officials said.
Also in Mosul, six journalists were wounded when a roadside bomb blast hit their bus as they were on their way to cover the voting by members of the security forces.
And near Ramadi, west of Baghdad, a soldier was killed when his convoy travelling to a polling station was targeted by a roadside bomb, security personnel said.
Five voting centres in the northern city of Kirkuk were attacked by militants on Sunday.
Authorities have announced a week of public holidays to try to bolster security for the election.
The unrest is the latest in a months-long surge in violence that has claimed nearly 3,000 lives already this year, while anti-government fighters have held control of an entire town a short drive from Baghdad since the beginning of the year.
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