- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 3, 2006

BAGHDAD — An international team began reviewing the hundreds of complaints filed about Iraq’s parliamentary elections, and an Iraqi elections official said yesterday that results might not be ready for two weeks.

In the capital, the sister of Iraq’s interior minister was kidnapped by gunmen, who killed one of her bodyguards and seriously wounded another, an Interior Ministry official said.

U.S. aircraft, meanwhile, bombed a building where suspected insurgents were hiding north of Baghdad, killing seven persons, Iraqi police said.

The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq has completed an investigation of almost 2,000 election complaints and will announce the findings today, said commission member Hussein Hindawi.

But the commission won’t announce the final election results until an international team finishes its work, meaning they might not be ready for two weeks, said commission member Safwat Rashid. Officials previously said the final results of the Dec. 15 vote would be announced early this month.

The commission investigated 1,980 complaints, including 50 considered serious enough to alter results in some districts, an election official said.

The international team, which began its work Monday, agreed to review Iraq’s elections after protests by Sunni Arab and secular Shi’ite groups that the voting was tainted by fraud.

Preliminary results give the governing Shi’ite religious bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, a big lead, but one that still would require forming a coalition.

Interior Minister Bayan Jabr’s sister was kidnapped in northeastern Baghdad, said Adnan Thabet, commander of the Interior Ministry’s special forces. He did not provide details about the abduction or the minister’s sister — including her name or age.

Mr. Jabr is a member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq — the country’s largest Shi’ite party, also known as SCIRI. He was formerly a senior official of the Badr Brigade, a militia that belongs to SCIRI.

Mr. Jabr has in recent weeks been the focus of criticism regarding charges of torture and abuse at Interior Ministry prisons. Many of those abused were Sunnis, the group thought to sponsor the insurgency.

U.S. aircraft bombed a house late Monday in Beiji, site of Iraq’s largest oil refinery, killing seven persons and wounding four, said Iraqi police Capt. Arkan Jassim. The U.S. military said an unmanned aircraft spotted three men planting a roadside bomb in the city, which is 155 miles north of Baghdad, and that Navy F-14s bombed a nearby building the three had entered.

But police in Beiji told Reuters news agency that the victims were innocent family members, the youngest being 14, and that they included two police officers, one of whom was killed.

“I absolutely confirm there were no terrorists in this house,” police chief Col. Sufyan Mustafa told Reuters.

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