Iraqi PM extends emergency law for elections

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi extended the country's emergency law for 30 days to guard against attacks in the run-up to the nation's Jan. 30 elections.

The state of emergency, first imposed on Nov. 7 for 60 days ahead of a major US assault on the insurgents' stronghold of Fallujah, would stay in effect into February, Allawi's government said in a statement.

The move, in a bid to assure the worried Iraqi people of an ambitious security plan to deal with all threats, gives the government the authority to impose curfews, restrict movement between cities and set up around-the-clock courts so that suspects could be detained without following normal legal procedures.

Night-time curfews are already in place in Baghdad, Mosul, Baquba and Fallujah among others.

The emergency applies to all regions of Iraq except the relatively stable Kurdish north.

The move aimed to show a strong government which is well prepared for any possible threats and encourage the idea that voters can step out safely to voting centers.

Unfortunately, Iraq's security worries are very real.

On Thursday, a roadside bomb killed seven US soldiers in northwest Baghdad and two Marines were killed in western Iraq.

The seven soldiers were on patrol Thursday evening when their Bradley fighting vehicle hit the explosive, the US military said in a statement. The two other US Marines killed in action Thursday were members of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. They lost their lives in Anbar province, home to the volatile city of Fallujah.

The previous four days had seen a string of assassinations, suicide car bombings and other assaults targeted on the US-backed interim government and its security services, which killed 90 people, mostly policemen. Thursday is the deadliest day for the American forces since a suicide attack on a US base last month.

The Iraqi police also said Thursday that Florence Aubenas, a female French journalist from the daily Liberation, went missing along with her Iraqi translator since Wednesday and may have been kidnapped.

What's more, in a grim reminder of an insurgency raging nearly 22 months after the US-led invasion, police found Wednesday the bodies of 18 Iraqi Shiites captured and killed last month on their way to work at a US base in the northern city of Mosul.

Allawi said he expected the number of attacks would rise before the Jan. 30 vote. He called the decision on prolonging the state of emergency a precaution."We expect some escalations (of attacks) here and there. This is a precaution to protect the Iraqi people as well as the elections and the process of the elections," Allawi said Thursday.

Violence in the heartland of the Sunni minority has impeded preparations for the elections there and many Sunni groups are boycotting them, saying the threat of violence would keep them away from voting centers.

The US military and Iraqi interim government have drafted a security plan to put 100,000 Iraqi forces on the streets in an effort to prevent bloodshed on the election day.

The US and Iraqi forces were hoping that an increase in offensives against insurgents coupled with airtight security on Jan. 30 will allow voting to go ahead nationwide despite fears of attacks.

Source: Xinhua

People's Daily Online ---