US Embassy warns of “terrorist attacks” on polling day in Iraq

Iraq announced on Wednesday that a 24-hour curfew would go into effect from midnight on Friday and last the entire day on Saturday.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The US Embassy in Baghdad has warned of possible terrorist attacks targeting polling stations in Iraq.

In a statement released on Friday, the US mission claimed it has received information of the targeting of voting centers throughout Iraq, naming specifically the Baghdad neighborhoods of Umm al-Qura and Ghazaliya as areas of particular concern.

“The Embassy has temporarily curtailed movement of its personnel to these areas,” the statement read, advising US citizens in Iraq to “be aware of [their] surroundings and enhance [their] personal security."

Amid strict security measures, ballot stations will open on Saturday at 7 am across Iraq and the Kurdistan Region and close at 6 pm, though in past parliamentary votes, delays have caused Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to extend the deadline.

Special voting centers opened on Thursday for the nation's security forces, needed on Saturday to secure public polling stations after threats by the Islamic State (IS) that it would target anyone casting a ballot.

Absentee voting for Iraqi citizens outside of the country also began Thursday and will last until late Friday evening. According to IHEC, over 900 thousand Iraqis abroad are eligible to vote in 21 countries.

The elections, which will determine the candidates to obtain a seat in the Baghdad Parliament, will be the first since the military defeat of IS was announced in December 2017.

Iraq announced on Wednesday that a 24-hour curfew would go into effect from midnight on Friday and last the entire day on Saturday. Airports and border crossings will also close for 24 hours, as an additional security precaution.

Editing by John J. Catherine