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Iraq ballot amid shower of bombs
An Iraqi Kurdish woman shows her ink-stained finger after voting on Sunday. (AFP)

Baghdad, March 7: A concerted wave of attacks struck Baghdad and other cities across the country today as Iraqis voted to elect a new parliament and possibly a new prime minister.

Explosions reverberated across the capital moments before the polls opened and continued through the morning haze for the first hours of voting.

At least 38 people were killed and dozens more wounded in Baghdad alone by the time polls officially closed there, the interior ministry reported.

Insurgents in Iraq had vowed to disrupt the election, and the attacks appeared timed to frighten voters away from polling sites. If that were the intent, it did not succeed entirely.

By late morning, the attacks — dozens of mortars, rockets and bombs — had tapered off, and Iraqis lined up to vote, many of them expressing anger and determination.

“Everyone went,” Maliq Bedawi, 45, who works at Baghdad International Airport, said as he waved his purple-stained finger. He stood outside the rubble of an apartment building that was struck and destroyed by what the police said was a Katyusha rocket. “They were defiant about what happened. Even people who didn’t want to vote before, they went after this rocket.”

Iraqis, he went on, “are not afraid of bombs anymore”.

At the White House, President Barack Obama said he mourned the victims of violence but praised “the resilience of the Iraqi people who once again defied threats to advance their democracy”.

“I have great respect for the millions of Iraqis who refused to be deterred by acts of violence…,” Obama said.

By evening, it was still too early to measure the turnout, though western election observers noted a significant increase in voting as the day passed.

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