Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Parts of Iraq May Not Be Secure Enough to Vote, Like Baghdad?

Parts of Iraq May Not Be Secure Enough to Vote, Like Baghdad?:
“Some areas of Iraq will probably not be secure enough to take part in the Jan. 20 elections, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said today, even as he announced plans to increase the size of Iraq's army from 100,000 to more than 150,000 amid continuing attacks by insurgents.

Hostile forces are trying to hinder the security situation and hamper the "guarantee for the participation of all in the election," Dr. Allawi said.

"Certainly there are some pockets that will not be able to participate, but we do not think it will be widespread."

It was a frank admission about the security situation by Dr. Allawi, who has insisted that the elections will go ahead as scheduled, although a telephone call the prime minister made to President Bush on Jan. 3 was interpreted by some officials in Washington as possibly preparing to make the case for delay. Senior American officials, however, insisted that was not the case.

Dr. Allawi did not specify which parts of the country might not be able to vote, but Anbar Province and the area around Mosul in the north have been subject to continuing attacks that might make voting there particularly difficult.

Those areas are mainly inhabited by Sunni Muslims, many of whose leaders have expressed opposition to the vote. Under Saddam Hussein, the minority Sunnis controlled Iraq and dominated the majority Shiites.

Dr. Allawi spoke in Baghdad after six Iraqi policemen were killed when a suicide car bomb exploded at or near a police checkpoint in northern Tikrit, and after reports that seven Iraqi civilians died in a roadside bomb blast south of Baghdad.

Mr. Allawi, who said Iraq would spend about $2 billion on increasing the size of the Iraqi Army, said the Iraqi Defense Ministry had re-established a military academy "and other institutions to deal with training issues."

The Iraqi police have been a repeated target of attacks by insurgents, and Iraqi forces, which are scheduled to take over when coalition troops leave the country, have struggled to make an impact on the rebels.

In Tikrit, a Sunni Muslim city that is the hometown of Mr. Hussein and one of the centers of the insurgency in Iraq, police patrols were leaving their headquarters today when the suicide bomber attacked, said a spokesman for the First Infantry Division in Tikrit, Master Sgt. Robert Powell.

In a separate attack, seven Iraqi civilians were reported killed when a roadside bomb missed a passing American convoy and exploded next to a minibus in Yussifiya, 10 miles south of Baghdad, police and hospital officials told The Associated Press.

There was no immediate confirmation by the military, and the press office of the interim Iraqi government could not be reached for comment.

The militant group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility in an Internet statement for the Tikrit attack, in which one policeman was critically wounded and three others were treated in a hospital and released, Sergeant Powell said.

"A lion from the martyrs brigade of Al Qaeda Organization of Holy War in Iraq launched an attack on the cowardly mercenary police in Tikrit this morning," the statement said, Reuters reported.”

Today's attacks follow the killing on Monday of the deputy police chief of Baghdad and his son and the death of two American soldiers in an unusually powerful roadside bombing that destroyed a Bradley fighting vehicle, one of the American military's most heavily armored troop carriers.

The assassinations marked the second killing of a senior Baghdad official in five days and came less than three weeks before the national elections, scheduled for Jan. 30, that the insurgents have said they will disrupt.

If they can't secure the Capitol, how on earth are they ready for an election? Al Ingram


con·cept: Parts of Iraq May Not Be Secure Enough to Vote, Like Baghdad?