Shia alliance to claim election win amid violence

AN alliance of Shia Muslim parties is expected to claim victory in Iraq’s elections, but continuing violence underlined the massive problems the country still faces.

The Iranian-linked coalition, guided by clerics and intent on promoting Islamic law, was set to begin celebrations after results from two-thirds of polling stations are confirmed.

As the counting of votes continued following the January 30 polls, a Kurdish coalition moved into second place, pushing a bloc led by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi into third.

Since Iraqis voted on January 30, around 50 civilians, soldiers and police officers have been killed in a series of attacks by those opposed to the election.

In two incidents yesterday, at least 15 people were killed when a car bomb exploded outside police headquarters in Baquba and 12 died when a suicide bomber detonated among a crowd of officers in Mosul.

Al-Qaida’s wing in Iraq, led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for both blasts and vowed to carry out further attacks on “apostates and their masters,” an apparent reference to US-led forces and the Iraqis who work with them.

At least 15 civilians were killed and 17 wounded when a suicide car bomb exploded outside the main police headquarters in the town of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad.

Police said the bomber tried to ram his car into the police station but was blocked by a concrete barrier and detonated his explosives near civilians instead.

In the northern city of Mosul, 12 people were killed and four wounded when the other suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of police officers in a hospital compound.

A large crater was blown into the road and at least five cars were destroyed. Most of the victims were thought to be police officers waiting to collect their pay.

“A lion in the martyrs’ brigades of al-Qaida Organisation for Holy War in Iraq attacked a gathering of apostates seeking to return to the apostate police force in Mosul near the hospital,” a website statement said.

A separate mortar attack on the city hall building in Mosul killed one person and wounded three.

Further south in Basra, where four bombs have exploded since the poll, people said they hold hopes that the election results will draw an end to attacks from Sunni insurgents and Ba’athist loyalists.

In suburbs across the city, electricity and clean water are in scarce supply and at the Al Shafaa General Hospital doctors struggle to treat their patients with ageing donated equipment.

The centre was stripped bare by looters in the aftermath of the US-led invasion, clearing wards of medicines and beds.

Italian hostage Giuliana Sgrena will be released in the next few days, according to an internet statement in the name of the Iraqi militant group holding her.

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