- The Washington Times - Monday, February 7, 2005

BAGHDAD — Insurgents struck Iraq’s security forces with suicide bombs and mortar fire yesterday, killing more than 30 people as violence escalated after last week’s election.

Early returns from the Sunni heartland, meanwhile, showed that many Sunnis stayed away from the polls on Jan. 30, leaving the field to Shi’ite and Kurdish candidates.

Election officials acknowledged that thousands of people in the Mosul area had been unable to vote because of security measures. Fewer than a third of the planned 330 polling centers in Mosul and the surrounding province managed to open on election day, the officials said.

A Kurdish ticket pulled ahead of the list backed by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi in the race for the 275-member National Assembly, thanks to a surge of votes released yesterday from the Kurdish self-governing area of the north. A ticket backed by the nation’s Shi’ite clergy leads among the 111 candidate lists.

U.S. troops manning a checkpoint yesterday discovered four Egyptian technicians who had been kidnapped the day before in Baghdad, an Egyptian diplomat said. He said the four were freed and some arrests were made.

Yesterday’s deadliest attack occurred in Baqouba, where a suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle outside the gates of a provincial police headquarters, killing 15 persons and wounding 17, police Col. Mudhahar al-Jubouri said. Many victims were looking for jobs as policemen, Col. al-Jubouri said.

In Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, a suicide bomber wandered into a crowd of security personnel at a hospital and blew himself up, killing 12 persons and wounding seven, U.S. officials said.

Mortar attacks elsewhere in the so-called Sunni Triangle killed four civilians and wounded four more. In Ramadi, the body of an Iraqi national guardsman was found on a city street with gunshot wounds.

The attacks have shattered a brief downturn in violence after the Jan. 30 elections, when Iraqis voted for members of a new National Assembly that will write a constitution later this year.

A final tally was expected by week’s end, but partial returns point to a landslide by Shi’ite Muslim candidates endorsed by their clerics. Shi’ites make up about 60 percent of Iraq’s 26 million people.

Kurds, estimated at 15 percent to 20 percent of the population, gave most of their votes to a joint ticket made up of the two major Kurdish parties, which was in second place with about 24 percent of the votes reported by yesterday.

Mr. Allawi’s ticket trailed with about 13 percent of the vote, while the Shi’ite ticket led with about half the votes. One of the Kurdish leaders, Jalal Talabani, has announced his candidacy for the presidency.

Figures released yesterday by the election commission from Salaheddin province, which includes Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, confirmed suspicions that many Sunnis avoided the polls.

With results in from 80 percent of the province’s polling stations, the United Iraqi Alliance — which is backed by the country’s top Shi’ite clerics — had the most votes with 27,645. The Kurdish Alliance was next with 18,791 votes.

A party headed by the Sunni Arab president, Ghazi al-Yawer, received only 15,832 votes. The faction led by Mr. Allawi, a secular Shi’ite who ran on a law-and-order platform, got just over 13,000.

Salaheddin includes such insurgency flash points as Samarra and Beiji, as well as a major American military base at Ballad.

Some Sunni and Christian politicians who participated in the election have accused officials of denying thousands of people the right to vote, especially in Ninevah province, which includes Mosul. They complained polling stations ran out of ballots and voters were turned away.

Election commission officials acknowledged 15,188 persons were unable to vote in one Ninevah town alone, Bartala. They blamed the problems there and elsewhere on the security crisis.

Officials said only 93 of a planned 330 polling centers opened in Ninevah province. Gunmen looted some polling places, stealing ballot papers, commission official Izzedine al-Mahmoudi said.

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