Iraqis vote as mortars and bombs rock Baghdad

Iraqis vote as mortars and bombs rock Baghdad

The poll, which Al-Qaeda has threatened to sabotage, started at 0700 am (0400 GMT) and is due to end at 0500 pm.
A total of six mortar blasts were heard, four of them in the secure "Green Zone" where foreign diplomats and several government ministries are based, said an interior ministry official and AFP correspondents in the Iraqi capital.
A total of eight blasts were heard in the city.

Sunni Arabs are expected to turn out in force at voting centres, in stark contrast to 2005 when they boycotted nationwide polls in protest at the rise to power of the nation's long-oppressed Shiite majority.

That boycott deepened the sectarian divide and heightened unrest which killed tens of thousands of Iraqis in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion and which has only eased in the past two years.

The election will usher in a government tasked with tackling a multitude of problems, including still high levels of violence, an economy in tatters and state ministries mired in a culture of endemic corruption.

Seven years after the war, much of Baghdad remains bomb damaged, most homes receive only a few hours of mains electricity a day and lack clean drinking water, and a quarter of the Iraqi population is illiterate.

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