5 blasts in Baghdad renew violence fears

At least 24 killed in shootings, bombings in Iraq

U.S. soldier dead


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Five explosions rocked parts of the capital city yesterday, killing at least seven Iraqis and wounding 30, while tying up traffic and spreading fears of a new surge in violence. At least two dozen people were killed nationwide in shootings and bombings mostly targeting the Shiite-dominated security services.

At least one U.S. soldier was killed in Baghdad when his patrol vehicle was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, the U.S. military said.

Yesterday's explosions included two suicide car bombs, two remote-controlled car bombs and a possible motorcyclist bomber. Though they demonstrated no great strategic or tactical strides by insurgents, they did show the continued potency of Iraq's Sunni Arab-led rebellion, which has picked up after a lull in the days after the Dec. 15 parliamentary vote.

Instead, the election has proven highly divisive. The most recent partial election returns, which yesterday included out-of-country votes as well as the votes of Iraqi police, soldiers, emergency workers and prisoners, showed that Islamist Shiites and Kurds would together surpass the two-thirds majority of seats necessary to form a government. In January, the two groups formed a coalition that has run the government on an interim basis this year.

The results show that despite U.S. efforts to promote diversity in Iraq's security forces, the nation's police and armed forces remain deeply lopsided in favor of the religious Shiite and Kurdish political slates that have dominated the interim government. Less than 10 percent of the Iraqi soldiers, police officers and others who voted early because they had to work Election Day cast ballots for Sunni Arab candidates.

Sunni Arabs and secular candidates together are likely to receive most of the remaining 80 or so seats in the 275-seat parliament. According to results, which should be finalized early next month, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a pro-American candidate favored by Washington, will get about 25 of those seats, with about 8 percent of the popular vote.

Shiites and Kurds are set to win 190 seats between them. Their victory was far-reaching.

Election officials said they would continue investigating allegations of fraud. The election commission was examining 950 ballot boxes, each with about 500 votes, from various parts of the country and abroad. Supporters of Allawi and the Sunni coalitions have alleged systematic voter fraud.

Investigators have determined that there was voting fraud in three polling centers in Istanbul, Turkey, and plan to invalidate those votes, said an election commission official, and fine a television station run by the leading Shiite coalition for broadcasting disinformation shortly before the elections.

But international election officials have begun dismissing the overall protests as attempts to placate shocked constituents and bolster their bargaining position with Shiites and Kurds in the formation of a new government. Foreign diplomats have begun counseling Allawi's deputies and the Sunnis to stop complaining and start cutting deals for executive posts with the Shiite and Kurdish victors.

"The election was pretty credible under the circumstances," said Craig Jenness, the top United Nations adviser to the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq and an observer of votes in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Georgia, Iran and Kosovo. "I certainly don't see anything that would suggest that there was massive fraud in these elections."

The election commission confirmed that it would execute an order by a committee to remove from election slates former officials of the Sunni-dominated Baath Party, which ran Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Such action would add further insult to the injuries of the Sunnis and nationalists who lost the election.

Yesterday, the governor of Diyala province survived a roadside bomb targeting his convoy. A colleague and his driver were killed, said the governor, Raad Tamimi.

Most of the attacks yesterday appeared to target passing patrols of Iraqi police. The motorcycle bomber struck near a police station close to a crowded market in a mostly Shiite district of eastern Baghdad, killing two and injuring 16, police said.

The day's developments included:

Gunmen raided a house in southern Baghdad, killing three people, police Capt. Qassim Hussein said. Gunmen attacked the house again when police arrived to remove the bodies, wounding two officers, police said.

A Shiite cleric in the southern city of Najaf and a man in the northern city of Mosul were gunned down. In Baghdad, a civilian driving his children to school and a professor were killed.

Borzou Daragahi writes for the Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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