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Leading up to Thursday’s crucial nationwide vote in Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi military officials are touting a series of efforts to bolster security around polling sites. The vote is seen as a milestone both for Iraq’s nascent government and for U.S. troops, who hope the successful election of a four-year government will see the beginning of a troop reduction.

On Wednesday, with almost all vehicular travel banned and a curfew in effect, the U.S. military said a series of raids in and around Baghdad had resulted in some 45 arrests.

The arrests were made over the course of several days this week, but not announced until Wednesday. In one release, the military said Task Force Baghdad soldiers and Iraqi security troops arrested 13 suspected insurgents and seized a weapons cache in “pre-election operations” in Baghdad on Dec. 9 and 10.

Various raids and search operations were carried out by soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment; 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment; and the Iraqi 1st Battalion, 4th Public Order Brigade.

In a separate raid, soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division found a huge roadside bomb in an abandoned house in an area south of Baghdad.

“During a routine patrol, soldiers … inspected an abandoned house and discovered the homemade bomb, which consisted of a 5-foot pipe filled with explosives,” a U.S. military release read.

An explosives disposal team was called to the site and destroyed the bomb in place.

U.S. troops are expected to play a secondary role in security for Thursday’s elections, with Iraqi troops and police being the closest to the polling stations.

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