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American Forces Press Service

Votes Prove Stronger Than Bullets in Iraqi Elections

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 30, 2005 - "Iraqis have proved today that the strength of their votes are more powerful than the strength or the effects of bullets or terrorism," said interim Iraqi Vice President Ibrahim Jafari.

Jafari, speaking through a translator, spoke to a press conference after casting his vote in the elections for an Iraqi National Assembly.

Government officials said that while there have been incidents of violence in the country, Iraqi security forces have been able to handle them. Officials said the voter turnout is strong "and getting stronger as the day goes on."

The Iraqis are showing their determination in the face of terrorism. In Baghdad, a suicide bomber launched an attack near the al Iskand Children's Hospital, and succeeded only in killing himself, officials said. Local Iraqis on their way to vote spit on the body.

A snapshot of voting around the country shows strong showing in the northeast and south. In Ninewa province, there have been no major incidents and Iraqis are lining up to vote. What seems to be occurring is that members of a family go out to check the polling place. When there are no incidents, then the rest of the voters in the family come out, officials said.

In primarily Sunni areas, the voting is consistent. There are lines forming in Baqubah, Suleymaniyah, Mosul and even Fallujah.

In Baghdad, some Iraqis are walking 20 kilometers to vote, and insurgents firing across the Tigris River to try an intimidate voters, were themselves attacked by Iraqis who refuse to be intimidated, officials said.

There is violence, officials said, but it is isolated. There were other instances of suicide bombings and one vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated. Insurgents fired some mortars in Baghdad and other areas. Western reporters said that by 1:30 p.m., there were 13 deaths nationwide tied to the elections.

Mandia Husseini, a member of the Independent Election Commission of Iraq, congratulated the Iraqi people as they went to the polling centers. "This is a momentous phase the Iraqi people are going through," Husseini said through a translator. "We are all united in our one aim to help our beloved country."

Government spokesman Tha'ir al-Naqeeb used an old voting ballot from Saddam Hussein's regime as a vivid example of the type of change sweeping the country. The old slip had one box, with one party. Today's voting slip gives Iraqis hundreds of choices. "Today is a great day for Iraq and Iraqis," al-Naqeeb said. "Today we determine our future for ourselves for the first time.

"Us Iraqis will be voting in our millions across Iraq," he continued. "This is a great and a proud day for Iraqis."


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