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After Threats, Iraqi Electoral Board Resigns

Head of Commission in Volatile Anbar Province Says Rebels Make Vote Impossible

By Jackie Spinner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 10, 2005; Page A12

BAGHDAD, Jan. 9 -- In another significant blow to Iraq's upcoming elections, the entire 13-member electoral commission in the volatile province of Anbar, west of the capital, resigned after being threatened by insurgents, a regional newspaper reported Sunday.

Saad Abdul-Aziz Rawi, the head of the commission, told the Anbar newspaper that it was "impossible to hold elections" in the province, which is dominated by Sunni Muslims and where insurgent attacks already have prevented voter registration. The province includes the restive cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.

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"They are kidding themselves," Rawi said about officials hopeful that the elections, set for Jan. 30, could take place in Anbar.

An Iraqi at the commission's office in Anbar said the members had resigned and had gone into hiding.

Iraqi and U.S. officials have said Sunni participation in the elections is necessary for the vote to be considered legitimate. The largest political party representing Sunnis announced last month that it would drop out of the process, the country's first democratic elections in nearly half a century.

Insurgents have mounted a bloody campaign in the weeks leading up to the vote, targeting election workers, political party leaders and other participants. The U.S. military, meanwhile, has stepped up operations to stop the violence, but frequent attacks continue to grip the country.

At an elementary school in Tikrit, about 90 miles north of Baghdad, a rocket landed behind a school, narrowly missing a building crowded with children taking exams. The Um Omara school is a designated polling place, residents said.

"It was like an earthquake under my feet," said Kadhem Mohei, 57, a school guard. "The school walls cracked. It hit in the back yard." Mohei said his daughter, who was in the school, was slightly injured.

Meanwhile, in a village near the northern city of Mosul, where the U.S. military reported that it had mistakenly dropped a 500-pound bomb on the wrong target Saturday, residents said the Americans actually hit the correct house, killing an insurgent who they said had killed Iraqi security forces.

The residents of Aaytha, 30 miles south of Mosul, said the bomb hit the home of the Numan family, members of the prominent Sunni Muslim Jubori tribe, one of the largest in Iraq. Witnesses said the blast killed 14 members of the family, including 10 women and children. Neighbors said a toddler related to the family was the sole survivor.

Salem Jasem Jubori, who lives close to the house that was destroyed, said the head of the household was a middle-age man who "used to kill and cut" his victims, primarily Iraqi police and National Guardsmen, in front of villagers.

"He was ferocious, very fierce and wild," Jubori said.

The U.S. military said in a statement Saturday that five people were killed and that it "deeply regretted the loss of possibly innocent lives." The statement said the house struck by an F-16 fighter jet "was not the intended target. . . . The intended target was another location nearby."

The military had no immediate reaction to the villagers' account.

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