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Iraq imposes curfew in Mosul until time to vote

IRAQI police imposed a curfew yesterday in the northern city of Mosul, banning vehicles and barring its residents from leaving their homes until they go to cast their ballot today, an Iraqi police official said.

It was the first step in a series of blanket security measures scheduled to take effect in advance of the elections, which included closing Iraq's international borders, ordering traffic bans across Baghdad and major cities and halting air traffic. Hundreds of women, including teachers and civic workers, have been recruited to help search women voters after a rise in female suicide bombers last year.

The polls open today at 7am and close at 5pm. Results are not likely for several days.

Iraq also sealed its border crossings with Iran yesterday, and the southern city of Basra also was scheduled to be sealed from last night until tomorrow morning, said Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Abdul-Karim Khalaf.

"The air and land borders will be sealed, but there will be no restriction on people's movements within the city," Khalaf said.

Most other cities are expected to take the same measures by late yesterday.

More than 14,400 candidates are competing for 440 seats in 14 of the country's 18 provinces.

Mosul's city borders were closed yesterday morning to vehicles and a citywide curfew was scheduled to take effect several hours later, said police officer Colonel Safaa Abdul-Razzaq, spokesman for the joint operations command in the Ninevah province.

Abdul-Razzaq said the curfew was imposed to curb any potential violence during voting in Iraq's third largest city. The vehicle ban is in place in Mosul until tomorrow.

While Baghdad and other cities in Iraq have enjoyed substantial security gains, Iraq and United States forces continue to battle al-Qaida and other insurgents in Mosul.

The multi-ethnic city has been one of the hardest to tame after insurgents fled to the area following US-Iraq security crackdowns elsewhere.


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