Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Iraqi government pledged Saturday it would do everything in its power to protect voters from insurgent attacks during next week's national elections, as militants announced they'd killed 15 captive Iraqi national guardsmen for cooperating with the Americans. Eight other Iraqi guardsmen and an Iraqi civilian were injured Saturday when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt near the gate of a military camp near Hillah, 60 miles south of Baghdad, Iraqi officials said. (AP)

An unprecedented series of security measures will be in force in Iraq during next Sunday's election, it was announced by Baghdad authorities yesterday. There will be an 8pm-6am curfew in many parts of the country, a three-day holiday, no travel between provinces and a ban on the use of most cars. Baghdad international airport will be closed for two days, and civilians will be forbidden from carrying weapons. Anyone caught breaking the rules will be detained, a statement said. Even the locations of many polling stations are being kept secret until the last minute, to make it harder for bombers to plan their attacks. (The Independent [UK])

End of Iraq's nightmare ... or the start. Violence threatens to plunge the country into civil war as the beleaguered Sunni minority prepares to boycott this month's polls. (The Observer / Guardian [UK])

Robert Fisk: Not even Saddam could achieve the divisions this election will bring. Sunday 30 January will be the day when myth and reality come together with - I fear - an all too literal bang. The magic date upon which Iraq is supposed to transform itself into a democracy will no doubt be greeted as another milestone in America's adventure and, I suspect, another "great day for Iraq" by Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara. He, of course, doesn't have to be blown up in the polling stations or torn to pieces by suicide bombers on the way home. The "martyrs of democracy", as I am sure the dead will be feted, will be those Iraqis who have decided to go along with an election so physically dangerous that the international observers will be "observing" the poll from Amman. (ZNET)

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