Post-Standard, The (Newspaper) - January 28, 2005, Syracuse, New York PAGE A-6 THE POST-STANDARD Friday, January 28, 2005 IRAQ Anti-election attacks grow; troops roll Videotape shows the murder of a candidate from the interim government's party. Rv Rnhprt H. Reid Associated Press Baghdad, Iraq Insurgents stepped up attacks Thursday against polling centers across Iraq, killing at least a dozen peo- the rebel campaign to tnghten Iraqis away from participating in this weekend's election. As part of an intensifying campaign of intimidation, an al- Qaida affiliate led by Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi posted a videotape on the Internet showing the murder of a candidate from the party of interim Prime Minister Ayad Al- lawi. The tape included a warning to Allawi personally: "You trai- tor wait for fhe aneel of death." To protect voters on Sunday, hundreds of American soldiers began moving out of their mas- sive garrison on the western edge of Baghdad to take up posi- the city to respond more quicKiy to any election day attacks. Sunni Muslim insurgents have threatened to disrupt the ballot- ing, when Iraqis choose a 275-member National Assembly and governing councils in the country's 18 provinces. Voters in the Kurdish self-governing area of the north will select a new regional parliament. In the former rebel strong- hold of Fallujah, where opposi- tion to the balloting is strong, IT ou have to fight for he said. "I feel great. I can't ex- press my happiness." Many historians consider the last free elections in Iraq to have taken place in 1954, when oppo- sition won seats in an election held under British colonial influ- ence. iraq was a constitutional monarchy at the time. As voting got under way in Sydney, a group of about a dozen protesters of the Worker- Communist Party of Iraq began shouting in Arabic and waving banners with Arabic and English slogans including: "No to American terrorism. No to Is- lamic terrorism." But they quickly were drowned out by a larger contm- gent who cheered, chanted, 1 clapped and danced. j Nearly Iraqi exiles reg- J istered to vote in Australia, around 15 percent of the estimat- ed 80.000 eligible Iraqi nation- als. 1 U.S. SOLDIERS briefly detain an Iraqi man after a mortar attack in Mosul, Iraq on Thursday. Jim MacMillan Associated Press Two Cities, Two Stories Military braces for worst j Relative calm allows when polls open in Mosul j campaigning in Basra lorh. limes Mosul, Iraq Snipers are taking up positions across the city. The concrete barriers around the voting sites are up. The actual polling stations are being unveiled, replacing the decoys set up to deceive the insurgents. An election will be held in this violence-racked city of 1.6 million, but it remains an open question here as in so many other Sunni Arab cities where the insurgent presence is strong whether enough people will brave the dangers to vote in significant numbers. "Mosul is a hot said Salem Isa, the head of security for Nineveh province. "We have special security plans and will try to take all the pos- sible steps to get them to the boxes peacefully." It will not be easy. For ex- ample, even handling election materials is considered so dan- gerous that ballots and ballot boxes will be distributed to the 80 polling centers under escort by armored American military convoys. "The mili- tary lids 10 UU 11 OCCUuaC Ui Uic security said! Khaled Kazar. the head of the elections commission here, j "No one would ever volunteer j to move this stuff." Once considered a model city of the occupation, Mosul has descended into a hellish sectarian stew. 65 percent Sunni Arab and 30 percent i Kurdish, with a sprinkling of j Turkmen, Assyrians and other i ethnic groups. Making matters j worse, in November, thou- sands of police and security officers abandoned their posts under an insurgent assault that coincided with the American attack on Fallujah. Since then, scores of civil- ians have died in insurgent at- tacks. Kurds, government offi- cials and Iraqi security officers have been slaugh- tered. Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, commander of coalition forces across northern Iraq, said his "nightmare scenario" would be "multiple, simultaneous suicide attacks early on elec- tion day." Basra, iraq The convoy of cheering, flag-waving se- dans and pickup trucks pushed its way through the middle of this southern Iraqi city accom- panied by a pop-music-style refrain, a paean to Grand Aya- tollah Ali al-Sistani, the coun- try's most important Shiite cleric. Campaigning in much of Iraq is a furtive, life-threaten- ing affair, best done on the quiet, if at all. Not so in the south, where the ayatollah's party, symbolized by a burn- ing candle, is called the Unit- ed Iraqi Coalition List and is one of dozens stumping open- ly and sometimes raucously. With candidates and cam- paign workers still spray- painting slogans, handing out literature, debating on the radio and shouting through speakers on the last day before the campaigns are supposed to shut down, it is almost impos- sible to forget that this elec- tion is taking place in Iraq. "Thanks to God. the securi- ty situation in Basra is good, and better than the other prov- All a gov- ernment worker who was spraying green paint through a template onto a rock wall. Resan, who favors another party, the National Brother- hood, in local elections, ges- tured with pride to members of Hezbollah a mild Iraqi offshoot of the radical Leba- nese Shiite group who were painting their own slogans on the same wall a few feet away. The juxtaposition "con- firms the meaning of freedom and Resan said. There is a sense among many parties that the possibili- ty of a high voter turnout in the south could give it dispro- portionate sway in Sunday's elections. Basra is Iraq's sec- ond-largest city. Taken together, the seven provinces that make up the comparatively peaceful south have about 7.7 million people. Iraq's estimated total popula- tion is just under 27 million. The security situation in the south is far from perfect: Basra province alone suffered more than 30 insurgent attacks in about the last month. DEVELOPMENTS Question of troops' return Talk of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq is simmering on Capitol Hill. It's mostly from Democrats Edward Kennedy on Thursday became the first senator to say ''we must begin" withdrawal but Republicans, i too, expect the discussion to in- crease as an Iraqi government takes shape and Congress con- 1 siders more billions of dollars 1 for the war. President Bush won't set a timetable and Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Al- lawi, says it's too soon to talk about American forces leaving. Still, both Republicans and Democrats recognize they will be under increasing pressure to answer the question of when American forces will return j home. Polls show the public growing skeptical about the war 1 no matter the outcome of Sunday's election. Stilt waiting for recruits More than four months after U.S. and Iraqi forces retook Sa- marra from insurgents. U.S. and Iraqi units are still waiting for the arrival of new police recruits being trained in Jordan or Bagh- dad. Insurgents carry out an av- erage of five attacks a day there, according to Maj. Gen. John R.S. Batiste, commander of the 1st Infantry Division. Threat of French militants French militants who join the fight against U.S.-led forces in Iraq could one day return to strike terror in France and else- where, the defense minister warned Thursday. The warning LUC UCltUUOii L1U5 of 1 1 people in Paris as France's domestic counterterrorism agen- 1 cy moved to break up a network j suspected of seeking to funnel young French Muslims to Iraq. U.S. death toll As of Thursday at least members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. At least died as a result of hostile action, the De- fense Department said. The fig- ures include three military civil- ians. The AP count is nine higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated at 10 a.m. EST Thursday. Since May 1, 2003, when President Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended, U.S. military members have died, according to AP's count. That includes at least 976 deaths resulting from hostile action, according to the military's numbers. News service reports Britain to send more Britain is to send an extra 220 troops to Iraq to take over from Dutch forces being pulled out of the country, the ca'rl Thursday. The Netherlands decided earlier this month to go ahead with plans to withdraw its troops from Iraq by March 15. British military chiefs believe that only 600 British troops are needed to'replace the Dutch, as good progress has been marto trninirwi Irani security forces. Most or tnai numoer will come from British units already deployed in Iraq. Iraqi commander says army needs six more months Army chief is optimistic obovt but military wi needI help. By Bassem Mroue The Associated Press Baghdad, Iraq Iraqi troops need six more months be- fore they can take control of cit- ies and towns, the country's army chief said Thursday, and after that, the military would still need help from U.S. ana outer foreign forces to protect its bor- In an interview with The As- sociated Press, Gen. Babaker Shawkat Zebari said he was opti- mistic about prospects for bol- stering the capabilities of Iraq's security forces a key U.S. goal as the White House comes under domestic political pressure to withdraw American troops. "God willing, during this year, our units will be fully aimed, trained and have enough said Zebari, an ethnic Kurd "After all this is finished. 1 am very optimistic mat tne Iraqi army will be able to protect the territories and border." Zebari said that if Iraqi forces continue to improve, "we will be able to protect Iraqi cities and villages within six monihs. Wednesday, however, the top U.S. commander here, Gen. George Casey, said Iraqi forces were not ready to take over die fight against the insurgents and there was no guarantee they would ever be able to do so. Pentagon officials hope to ac- celerate die training of Iraqi se- curity duel Ouiiuay 6 iut- tional elections so that they can assume ths.main role in fighting the insurgency. That would en- able Washington to begin bring- ing home the U.S. insurgents could be weakened militarily as Iraqi forces grow in confidence and capability. In remarks prepared for deliv- ery at Johns Hopkins University, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Mass., said the U.S. military presence in Iraq "has become part of the problem, not part of the solution' and that the United States needs to work with the Iraqis "on a specific timetable for the honorable homecoming OiOlU Zebari said he was hopeful in the next six months, Jhe need U.S. help even after Iraqi troops and police assume the main responsibility for protect- ing Baghdad and other major cit- ies. According to Zebari, Iraqi au- thorities in the past three weeks have detained insurgents, including foreigners from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen. yj pcnuit Ui. suicide attacks in die country are carried out by foreigners.