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Even in the Wake of Suicide Blast, 'They Didn't Want to Go Back Home'

Though performing this duty meant standing amid flecks of the flesh of the last officer who had the job, there were volunteers. In stepping forward to do the first round of pat-downs themselves, local residents explained that they could raise the alert if another suspicious stranger approached.

"The police might not be able to recognize residents; we know them better," said Zaid Abdulhamid, an electronics merchant. He was stationed at the head of an alley blocked by the trunk of a date palm, the all-purpose roadblock in Iraq. The Arabic words spray-painted on the surrounding walls read: "No to America. No to occupation" and "Death to anyone who hates Iraq."

_____More on Elections_____
Photo Gallery: The end of Iraq's Election Day brought indications of strong turnout, but also reports of at least 30 people killed.
Live, 11 a.m. ET: Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid will discuss the elections and the latest news from Iraq.
Transcript: The Post's Jackie Spinner discussed the scene in Irbil, where elation at electing a new Kurdish parliament has Kurds partying in the streets.
Graphic: Voting Sites Attacked
Primer: Iraqi Elections Explained

"We want to protect ourselves," Abdulhamid said.

And so, after about an hour, voting resumed.

Najila Amin, a housewife who felt the massive blast in her home, made her way to the scene of the crime.

"We're used to explosions," she said. "It's normal."

What surprised her, Amin said, was the steady stream of people walking past her window toward the school. Twenty people were in the street at any moment, stepping carefully in places the street cleaners had missed.

"I didn't expect such numbers," said Amin, 50, who fastened her head scarf so it showed no hair. "It makes me feel people want to protect themselves and have a government that can protect us."

Her companion on the walk to the polls, Taiyma Jamal, 26, said the turnout represented a vote against the insurgency. "People want to be free," she said.

Nawar Khadim Ahmed had gone home after seeing the man explode as he raised his arms. By 3 p.m., he was back to vote, carrying his 2-year-old daughter, Noor.

"We have to bury this chaos now and form a government," he said. "This is the time that we make a stand."

Ahmed, an auto mechanic, said he cast his vote in support of Ayad Allawi, the interim prime minister.

"Power," Ahmed said, when asked the reason.

"Don't you want education?" asked Sabah Abdullah Rahman, a retired fighter pilot standing nearby.

"We want power and education," Ahmed said. "He's an educated man."

Rahman nodded. "The Iraqis believe Allawi is a realistic, strong man," he said.

The American troops left after a couple of hours, handing off security to an Iraqi National Guard major and at least a dozen Iraqi police officers, most of them in street clothes.

"This doesn't stop the process," said Sgt. Tahsin Hassan, carrying a pistol in his belt and wearing a look of deep fatigue. The vest bomber had been Hassan's third close call. He had survived a car bombing in the "triangle of death" south of Baghdad that killed two policemen and a roadside bombing that killed two civilians right here in Zayuna.

As he spoke, shots from an assault rifle sounded not a block away. The sentries looked around, but no one on the street so much as flinched, not even a child of 4 clutching his father's hand on the way to the polls.

"We've had enough of this situation," Hassan said. "It becomes normal to us.

"We hear after the elections the situation will stabilize. People want stability."

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