Polling stations open around Iraq to elect new Iraqi parliament

Polling stations opened around Iraq Thursday to allow Iraqis to vote for a new parliament. A large explosion was head in downtown Baghdad within minutes of the polls opening and sirens could be heard inside the heavily fortified Green Zone where the Iraqi government and the U.S. and British embassies are located.

Police said the explosion was reportedly caused by a mortar landing near the Green Zone. There were no immediate reports of any injuries or damage. At a polling station in the Khulani neighborhood in downtown Baghdad police officers searched each person entering the polling station. To reach the station, people were searched at three separate checkpoints and dozens of people were standing waiting to vote.

"The first voting process to choose a parliament with a four-year term in Iraq has started and all the voting centers in Iraq have opened," Abdul-Husein Hendawi, a senior official with the election commission said.

He said some polling stations in the town of Ramadi, an insurgent stronghold 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, had not yet opened for security reasons. Among the first Iraqis to vote was Jalal Talabani, Iraq's first Kurdish president, who cast his vote in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah, reports the AP. I.L.

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