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Suicide blast as Iraq releases poll results

A SUICIDE bomber blew himself up yesterday inside a crowded restaurant in a Kurdish city near the Iranian border, killing at least 12 people, Iraqi officials said. The attack occurred as ethnic tensions have been rising following last weekend's elections.

The attack in the disputed city of Khanaqin came as Iraqi electoral officials prepare to release the first official preliminary returns from Saturday's vote for provincial councils.

Kurdish and police officials who gave the casualty toll said most of the victims in yesterday's blast were Kurds who had been lunching at the popular Abu Dalshad restaurant.

The city's police chief Cololel Azad Eisa said 15 other people were wounded in the attack.

Khanaqin, 140 kilometers northeast of Baghdad, has been a source of friction between Kurds and the Arab-run central government. Hundreds of Kurds complained on election day that they couldn't find their names on voter registration lists.

Salahuddin Kokha, an official with the local chapter of a Kurdish political party, said the attack was meant to upset Kurdish claims of a strong showing in elections in the mainly Sunni Diyala province.

"Terrorists want to destroy the happiness of the Kurds over their election victory in Khanaqin," Kokha said. "All of those killed were civilians."

Official results from last weekend's Iraqi election show the prime minister's allies finished first in races for ruling councils in Baghdad and eight other provinces. The election commission said yesterday that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's party won 38 percent of the vote in Baghdad in Saturday's election.

His party was followed by allies of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and a Sunni party with 9 percent each. In Basra, the country's second biggest city, the prime minister's followers won 37 percent of the vote. The Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the biggest Shiite party, won 11.6 percent. Voters chose ruling councils in 14 of the 18 provinces.

But early returns leaked by political parties have led to allegations of irregularities in some provinces, particularly Anbar, a former insurgent stronghold west of the capital.

Tensions between rival Sunni parties have been running high in Anbar, causing Iraqi authorities to ask United States troops to stand by in case of trouble following the announcement of election results.


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