Early voting begins in Iraq's parliamentary elections

Al-Qaida in Iraq and four other Islamic extremist groups on Monday denounced this week's parliamentary elections as a "satanic project" that violated God's law, but they stopped short of an explicit threat to attack polling stations as they did in previous votes.

The sound of detonations rumbled across the capital and at least 15 people died in ongoing violence but early voting in hospitals, prisons and military bases was not disrupted.

In a rare joint statement, five &to=http://english.pravda.ru/world/20/91/366/14874_.html' target=_blank>Islamic militant groups, denounced the Thursday election as a "satanic project" and that "to engage in the so-called political process" violates "the legitimate policy approved by God."

The groups vowed to "continue our jihad (holy war) ... to establish an Islamic state ruled by the book (the Quran) and the traditions of the prophet Muhammad."

However, the statement contained no clear threat to disrupt voting as in the run-up to the Jan. 30 election and the Oct. 15 referendum on the new constitution. The authenticity of the statement could not be verified, but it appeared on a Web site which often publishes extremist material.

The absence of a clear-cut threat could reflect the growing interest among Sunni Arabs, the foundation of the insurgency, to take part in the election. The Sunni decision to boycott the Jan. 30 ballot left the new parliament in the hands of rival Shiites and Kurds _ a move that increased communal friction and cost the Sunnis considerable influence in drafting the new constitution.

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