Thursday, December 15, 2005

Voting starts. AP updates:

Iraqis lined up amid tight security Thursday to vote in a historic parliamentary election the U.S. hopes will lay the groundwork for American troops to withdraw, with a mortar landing near the heavily fortified Green Zone just minutes after polls opened. No injuries were reported, but the blast underscored concerns of violence despite a promise by Sunni insurgent groups not to attack the polls. Dozens of Iraqis waiting to cast ballots at Baghdad's city hall went through three separate checkpoints as police searched each person entering the downtown site. "The first voting process to choose a parliament with a four-year term in Iraq has started," senior election official Abdul-Husein Hendawi said.

Buildings still lie in ruins, pulverized by one of the most intense urban battles of the Iraq war. The city is sealed off, with only residents allowed into or out of the tight security cordon. But despite continuing violence and intimidation in Iraq's insurgent heartland, turnout for Thursday's election in Fallujah, once the effective headquarters of the insurgency, was expected to be high.