Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis turn out for early voting Thursday in the parliamentary elections, which have been in dispute because of the disbarment of hundreds of Sunni and secular candidates. About 20 million voters go to the polls Sunday.
Islam Times reports from Al-Manar: At a time Iraq’s Muslim leaders and UN Chief Ban Ki-moon are urging people to head to the polls to cast their votes on Sunday, Al-Qaeda declared a curfew on election day throughout the country, threatening to target the voters.
Two days ahead of the vote, Muslim leaders made use of Friday prayers to urge people to vote. "You must go to the voting centers because it is your duty," said Sheikh Abdulrahman al-Jorani, the imam of the Al-Hai mosque in the central city of Baquba, where 33 people were killed in three suicide attacks on Wednesday.
"Even if you don't want to vote, go to the voting centers to destroy your electoral papers so they cannot be forged by others fraudulently."
Sunni Muslims are expected to cast ballots in large numbers, in stark contrast to their 2005 boycott of the poll.
Meanwhile, Ahmed al-Safi, a representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al-Sistani, said the election was a "vital issue," essential to ensuring Iraqis can "draw their own future."
"Turning away from voting, or participating in small numbers, for any reason, will give others a chance to achieve their illegal goals," said Safi at Friday prayers in the holy city of Karbala, south of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, Ban called on all Iraqis "to exercise their democratic right to vote on Sunday," a UN statement said, adding that the vote was"another important milestone in Iraq's political development."
On a visit to quake-hit Chile, Ban said: "The peaceful conduct of these elections... should contribute to national reconciliation in Iraq," the statement added.
"A strong voter mandate will be a powerful message in support of stability and prosperity for all Iraqis and will build on the political progress that has already been achieved."
On the other hand, Al-Qaeda declared a "curfew on election day... from six in the morning until six pm, throughout the country," US monitors SITE quoted it as saying in an Internet statement.
In the statement, Al-Qaeda warned anyone who "defies the curfew" to be targeted by "all kinds of weapons."
The group, which has previously threatened to sabotage the poll and claimed responsibility for attacks, delivered its warning after a series of suicide bombings left dozens dead.
Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, had already threatened last month to disrupt the election by "military means."
The final days of the campaigning for the parliamentary polls, the second since the US-led invasion in 2003 have been rocked by a series of suicide bombings that killed dozens.
Two suicide bombings and a rocket attack killed 14 people in Baghdad and marred early voting for security forces on Thursday, despite a massive security operation involving 200,000 police and soldiers in the Iraqi capital alone.