Iraq clashes prevent voting in parts of province

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s electoral commission said on Tuesday that there will be no balloting in parts of the Sunni-dominated Anbar province engulfed in clashes between security forces and al-Qaida-inspired militants.

Since late December, the western Anbar province has seen fierce fighting between government troops and allied tribal militias on one side, and militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an al-Qaida spin-off group, on the other.

The militants have seized and are continuing to hold parts of the provincial capital, Ramadi, and nearly all of the nearby city of Fallujah.

The exclusion of major Sunni cities such as Ramadi and Fallujah — where most of the fighting is underway as Iraqi forces try to wrest back areas overrun by militants — from the April 30 voting for Iraq’s new parliament could deepen Sunni fears of being marginalized by the country’s Shiite majority.

In a press conference in Baghdad, a member of the Independent High Electoral Commission, Muqdad al-Shuraifi, said the “commission cannot send its employees and balloting-related equipment, as well as logistics, to the areas where security operations are underway.”

He did not specifically name the areas seized by the militants but assured families displaced by the fighting that they will be allowed to vote in areas deemed “safe” or in parts of the province where they found shelter or in other provinces where some of them ended up.

According to the United Nations, about 400,000 people have been uprooted by the ongoing violence in Anbar.

More than 9,000 candidates will vie for 328 seats in the parliamentary elections, the first balloting in Iraq since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in late 2011.

Also on Tuesday, gunmen in a speeding car shot and killed six men gathered in a street outside the city of Mosul, about 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, a police officer and a medical official said.

The men were two brothers and four of their cousins, and it was not clear why they were targeted, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Later, near the city of Mishada just outside the capital, a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden car into the main entrance of a police station, killing four and wounding seven, officials said.

And in the in the northern town of Tuz Khormato, a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a police checkpoint, killing four policemen and wounding 13 other people, mayor Shalal Abdoul said. Tuz Khormato is located about 200 kilometers (130 miles) north of Baghdad.

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Follow Sinan Salaheddin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sinansm

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Associated Press writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this report.

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