Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 18:05 pm (KSA) 15:05 pm (GMT)

Iraq orders transport bans, curfews for election

Iraq's borders will be sealed off as well as all civilian airports and provincial borders (File)
Iraq's borders will be sealed off as well as all civilian airports and provincial borders (File)

Iraqi election officials on Saturday ordered transport bans and night-time curfews to boost security on the eve of the country's January 31 provincial polls and on election day.

Iraq's borders will be sealed off as well as all civilian airports and provincial borders from 10 pm (1900 GMT) on Friday until 5 am (0200 GMT) on February 1, the election commission announced.

Curfews are to be imposed next Friday and Saturday nights from 10 pm until 5 am, and civilians banned from carrying guns, even with a permit.

Only vehicles with official authorization will be allowed to take to the streets of Baghdad and provincial capitals on Saturday. "In no instance will any car be authorized to approach a polling station," it said.

Polling day and Sunday will be declared public holidays.

With the help of the United Nations, Iraq is holding the elections in 14 of its 18 provinces -- the first vote in the country since 2005. Some 15 million Iraqis are being called to the polls to elect officials for 440 seats.

The elections are seen as a crucial step in helping to secure Iraq's stability amid simmering unrest.

The Sunni Arab former elite largely boycotted provincial polls four years ago but are contesting this month's ballot in large numbers.

Candidate arrested on rape charge

A candidate in the provincial elections was arrested for kidnapping and attempted rape

A candidate in Iraq's provincial elections has been arrested for the kidnap and attempted rape of two teenage girls, police said on Saturday.

"Our forces received intelligence information about a gang, driving a car, who kidnapped two girls, aged 18 and 17, in the centre of Kut," said police commander Major Aziz al-Emara.

One of the three kidnappers was Zyad Shaker al-Ghenemawi, a candidate in the country's January 31 elections, Emara said.

Election posters in the area identified him as a contender in next week's polls.

"It is a moral not a political issue," Emara added. "The criminals are now under investigation."

Five policemen killed in bombing

Meanwhile Militants detonated a pick-up truck full of explosives next to a police convoy as it drove northwest of Baghdad on Saturday, killing five policemen, including a lieutenant-colonel, police said.

Five other police officers and nine civilians were wounded in the bombing in Garma, 30 km (20 miles) from the capital.

The attack in an area once dominated by al-Qaeda and other militants took place a week before provincial elections seen as a key test of security gains after years of sectarian slaughter that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Militants continue to stage attacks despite a sharp fall in overall violence in the last 18 months. U.S. officials have warned of a possible uptick in violence before the Jan. 31 vote.

Police say they believe al-Qaeda cells are still active in Garma, in the vast western desert province of Anbar.

Anbar was the heartland of the Sunni Arab insurgency against U.S. forces until tribal chieftains turned on militants in 2006.

The province is now relatively peaceful, but tension among Sunni groups have simmered ahead of next Saturday's vote.

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