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Iraqis Hold Peaceful Election Day in East Baghdad

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq, Dec. 15, 2005 – Baghdad took on an air of celebration as the polls closed on this historic election day with little terrorist action.

East Baghdad saw one rocket attack, with no direct attacks on polling places or on Iraqis going to vote.

Iraqi citizens reported a small homemade bomb that terrorists planted near a polling site, and Iraqi and coalition explosive ordnance technicians rendered it safe.

Turnout was high all over the region. Salman Pak, a primarily Sunni area south of here, had people lined up to vote when the polls opened at 7 a.m. In Sadr City, a Shiia area, most of the eligible voters participated, Iraqi officials said.

The atmosphere was festive. One woman sang as she approached the polling site in Rusafa. Another woman carried an Iraqi flag covered with slogans. Men and women held up the "V for victory" sign after voting.

In the streets, which were closed to vehicles, children organized impromptu soccer games and cheered as American and Iraqi military vehicles drove by them.

Security was tight all over the region, and the most conspicuous examples were Iraqi security forces. About 30 Iraqi police cars and a number of checkpoints were visible in Salman Pak. Iraqi public order battalions and Iraqi soldiers helped the local police secure the more than 1,350 polling stations in Baghdad. American tanks sat in one circle near the city of 16,000, but few Americans were visible, and none entered a polling station.

U.S. forces were available if the Iraqi security forces needed them, and they weren't needed, said a 3rd Infantry Division official.

At 5 p.m., some "celebratory" gunfire broke out as the polls closed, though officials say the turnout was so heavy and the lines so long that voting hours were extended in some areas.

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