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Iraq Election: First Poll Since US Withdrawal

Iraqis are voting in the country’s first parliamentary elections since the withdrawal of US troops three years ago.Polling began at 07:00 local time (04:00 GMT) and closes at 18:00.

First poll since US withdrawal

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is hoping to win a third term in office amid a growing insurgency in the west of the country.

Iraq is experiencing its worst unrest since 2008, with 160 people killed in the last week alone.

More than 20 million Iraqis are eligible to vote, with almost 50,000 polling stations open across the country.

There is a heavy security presence in the capital, with military helicopters on patrol, says the BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Baghdad.

The government has temporarily closed the airport and the main roads in and out of the city in an attempt to reassure voters, our correspondent adds.

While it is difficult to predict the outcome of the poll, Mr Maliki is still expected to be a pivotal figure in the coalition-building process which will follow the election.

His State of Law alliance, a Shia coalition, has largely avoided the fragmentation seen by other political blocs since the last election.

Wave of attacks

The campaign has so far been a violent one, with 50 people killed on Monday when soldiers, police and overseas citizens cast their votes.

One bomb struck a Kurdish political rally in the town Khanaqin, killing 30 people and wounding at least 50 others.

On Friday, at least 31 people were killed as a series of blasts targeted a Shia election rally in Baghdad. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – an al-Qaeda offshoot – said it had carried out the attacks.

More than 9,000 candidates are competing for 328 parliamentary seats. There will be no voting in parts of Sunni-dominated Anbar province, where security forces still battle Islamist and tribal militants for control of the provincial capital Ramadi and nearby Falluja.

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