Violence in Iraq: Shiites on the verge of major election victory

The violence followed the announcements of provisional election results showing Shiite religious groups winning over secular tickets in much of the country.

A vegetable truck rigged with explosives blew up outside a Shiite mosque northeast of &to=http://' target=_blank>Baghdad, and gunmen sprayed automatic fire into a bakery in a Shiite district of the capital in sectarian violence that killed at least 23 people.

The attacks occurred on Friday as election officials announced provisional final results from the Jan. 30 elections for provincial councils in 12 of the 18 provinces, showing Shiite religious groups winning handily over secular tickets in local races in much of the country, reports Taipei Times.

According to the Boston Globe, another &to=http://' target=_blank>car bomb exploded in an eastern Baghdad neighborhood as a US convoy passed, killing an Iraqi woman and wounding three others but causing no American casualties, Iraqi police said. The bomb exploded about half a mile from a US Army base.

The car bomb south of Baghdad exploded near the main hospital in Musayyib, 35 miles south of Baghdad along the Euphrates River. Though mostly Shi'ite, the town is in a religiously mixed area that has been the scene of frequent attacks by Sunni insurgents.

It appeared the attack was part of a campaign by Sunni Arab extremists against the country's Shi'ites -- an estimated 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people -- who stand on the verge of a major election victory as officials finish the final vote tallies.

On a surprise visit to Iraq on Friday, &to=http://' target=_blank>US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld described the voting as "a stunning accomplishment... putting this country on the path towards freedom and democracy."

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