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BAGHDAD — Despite scattered violence and several deaths, U.S. and Iraqi officials touted Thursday’s massive security operation as a success in both defending polling places and pushing Iraqi security forces to the fore.

Marines in Fallujah reported a hole was blown in the wall of a school in Karmah to be used as a polling place. The attack happened Wednesday night, but Iraqi and U.S. forces repaired the site enough that it could open on time Thursday.

U.S. officials said election security was set in three rings, with the polling stations themselves being guarded by Iraqi police officers. Heavy concrete barriers, concertina wire and crowd control checkpoints surrounded the sites. A second ring of Iraqi army troops patrolled just outside the stations, with U.S. troops conducting roving patrols and pre-positioning themselves as rapid reaction forces.

Shortly after polls opened, a rocket landed in Baghdad’s Green Zone, “damaging a vehicle and injuring one Marine and two civilian contractors,” a U.S. military news release read. “The wounded were treated at the site for minor injuries and released.” Two other rockets hit in central Baghdad around 9 a.m., landing near a polling station and wounding three Iraqi civilians.

Iraqi election officials said armed men harassed voters at polling places in Sadr City, but had fled before U.S. or Iraqi troops could arrive.

Security forces reported sporadic small-arms attacks and found roadside bombs near polling places throughout the hours leading up to the vote and on Thursday morning. U.S. officials said there were 85,000 more Iraqi security forces on duty than during October’s constitutional referendum.

There were various media reports — all relying on unnamed sources — claiming the U.S. military and top insurgent commanders had reached an election day truce. But Thursday’s attacks showed that even if such a truce was tacitly in effect, the insurgency has no central command that can control all cells.

The night before the election, U.S. troops continued on patrols and raids in various cities. Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division, for example, found several weapons caches and roadside bombs in the Abu Ghraib district of Baghdad.

Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, arrested 14 suspected insurgents and confiscated weapons and cash during a series of pre-election raids dubbed Operation Vanguard Free Speech.


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