Embassy rocket attack kills two on eve of Iraq election

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The Independent Online

In a deadly piece of symbolism ahead of today's crucial election in Iraq, two people were killed and four wounded by a rocket attack last night on the US embassy, in the heart of Baghdad's high-security Green Zone. An embassy source said all the victims were American.

In a deadly piece of symbolism ahead of today's crucial election in Iraq, two people were killed and four wounded by a rocket attack last night on the US embassy, in the heart of Baghdad's high-security Green Zone. An embassy source said all the victims were American.

The assault brought the number killed in eve-of-poll violence yesterday to 19, despite stringent security measures. There was barely a car to be seen on the streets of Iraq's main cities, the borders were sealed and Baghdad's international airport was closed as tensions ran high throughout the country.

In Basra, British troops claimed to have rounded up terrorists and a stash of explosive destined to be used outside polling stations. The Iraqi President, Ghazi al-Yawer, expressed the fear that "the majority will not take part because of the security situation" - and then partially retracted it. Citizens were warned to look out for "suicide cyclists" and booby-trapped donkey carts. The Baghdad government announced that its state of emergency will be extended for another 30 days.

As US-trained security forces barricaded streets and closed the airport yesterday, more than a dozen polling stations were attacked. A suicide bomber blew himself up in Khanaqin, north-east of Baghdad, killing three Iraqi soldiers and five civilians.

Most other attacks were concentrated in the Sunni heartland north of Baghdad where the insurgency has been fiercest and where many once-privileged Sunnis plan to boycott the election. Three civilians died in a bombing in the city of Samarra, a rocket attack on an Iraqi army base in neighbouring Duluiyah killed three soldiers, and insurgents killed a security guard at a polling station in Sharqat, south of Mosul.

Most candidates have kept their names secret, and authorities have kept the location of polling stations secret until the last moment.

Mortar rounds hit a polling station in the refinery town of Baiji and two other sites were dynamited overnight. Three Iraqi contractors abducted a week ago were shot dead in Balad, insurgents attacked the fortified Baghdad Hotel. South of the city, an Iraqi woman and child were killed by mortar rounds aimed at a US base. US troops killed two Iraqis in a car near the western city of Ramadi, one of the most volatile Sunni cities.

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