Blasts in Baghdad kill 17 as early election votes are cast

A string of blasts ripped through Baghdad targeting early voters and killing 17 people yesterday, raising tensions in an already nervous city as early ballots are cast for Sunday's parliamentary elections.

Insurgents have repeatedly threatened to use violence to disrupt the elections, which will help determine who will oversee the country as United States forces go home. It is also a test over whether the country can overcome its deep sectarian divides. Two of the blasts hit voters outside polling stations.

Baghdad was tense as thousands of troops deployed across the capital, and convoys of army trucks and minibuses ferried soldiers and security personnel to and from polling stations.

"Terrorists wanted to hamper the elections, thus they started to blow themselves up in the streets," said Deputy Interior Minister Ayden Khalid Qader, who is responsible for election-related security across the country.

He said security measures prevented the bombers from reaching polling places so they struck at voters en route. Many of the victims were believed to be security personnel – the main group casting their ballots early since they work on election day.

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