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Fire hits Iraq’s biggest ballot warehouse before recount

AFPBAGHDAD (AFP-Jiji) — A fire ripped through Iraq’s biggest ballot warehouse on Sunday ahead of a vote recount prompted by allegations of fraud during legislative elections that saw a surprise victory for a populist cleric.

A senior security official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said the fire broke out in a warehouse located in Al-Russafa, one of the largest voting districts in eastern Baghdad.

Firefighters brought the blaze under control several hours after it started, and the extent of the damage caused to ballot boxes was still unclear.

Around 60 percent of Baghdad’s two million eligible voters had cast their ballots in the May election in the Al-Russafa district.

A column of black smoke billowed from the warehouse, normally used to store foodstuff, and could be seen across the capital.

Warehouse staff ran out of the building carrying blue and white plastic ballot boxes to safety as firefighters backed by around a dozen trucks struggled to put out the fire, an AFP reporter said.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

The blaze comes as Iraq prepares for a manual recount of around 10 million votes, following allegations of fraud during the May 12 legislative polls.

The vote was won by populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr’s electoral alliance with communists, as long-time political figures were pushed out by Iraqi voters hoping for change in a country mired in conflict and corruption.

But the result was contested following allegations of fraud namely by the veteran politicians led by parliamentary speaker Salim al-Juburi.

The recount was ordered by parliament on Wednesday at all polling stations, although no timetable has been announced.

According to intelligence services, tests of electronic voting machines — used for the first time in Iraqi elections — produced varied results, appearing to give credence to the fraud claims.Speech

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