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Iraqis Vote in First Polls Since US Withdrawal

Iraqis voted Saturday in the country's first elections since the U.S. military withdrawal in 2011.

Voters cast ballots for local officials in 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces.

Around 8,000 local candidates are running for 378 positions in provincial councils. The vote tally is expected to begin on Sunday.

The poll does not affect national leadership. But it is seen as a barometer of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's popularity in the lead-up to next year's parliamentary election. Rival Sunni politicians have been demanding he step down, amid popular protests against him in western parts of Iraq.

No major violence was reported Saturday, despite widespread fears that Sunni insurgents might try to disrupt the vote. Voting is being delayed until a later date in two Iraqi provinces because of security concerns amid ongoing sectarian violence.



Security was tight Saturday, in response to a recent spike in political violence. On Friday, at least eight people were killed when mortar shells hit a Sunni Muslim mosque in a village near Khalis. A bomb also exploded inside a Shi'ite mosque in Kirkuk, leaving at least one person dead.

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