Dozens killed in suicide attacks ahead of Iraqi vote
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Suicide bombers in Iraq on Monday targeted polling stations and political gatherings in a spate of attacks ahead of Wednesday’s general election, killing at least 50 people, including several policemen and soldiers.
Nine attackers wearing suicide belts mostly targeted polling stations in Baghdad and cities north of the capital, while roadside bombs struck military convoys and targeted journalists covering the election.
The deadliest attack struck northeast of Baghdad in the mostly Kurdish town of Khanaqin, near Iraq's border with Iran.
A suicide bomber killed 30 people who had gathered to celebrate the release of a video purporting to show ailing President Jalal Talabani casting his vote in Germany, where he is receiving treatment for a stroke.
At least 50 others were wounded in the attack, which struck near the offices of Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in the town.
Two suicide bombers also struck the capital.
At one polling station in west Baghdad where a militant armed with an explosives-rigged vest killed seven policemen, ambulances ferried off the wounded as soldiers cordoned off the street, an AFP journalist reported.
Five members of the security forces were killed by another suicide bomber at a polling station in the city's north.
The attacks came as security forces also struggle to battle al Qaeda-linked militants in the western province of Anbar, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a powerful jihadist group that is also active in neighbouring Syria.
With violence at its highest level since 2008, diplomats have urged the Shiite-led government to reach out to Sunnis in order to undercut support for militancy, but Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has instead taken a hard line ahead of the parliamentary vote.
More than 1,000 people were killed in January, according to government data, as security forces have struggled to curb bombings and battle jihadists and other anti-government fighters who have seized areas of Anbar province.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Sunni militant groups, including ISIL, have taken credit in the past for similar attacks.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)