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Baghdad Polling Centers Ready for Voters Amid Extraordinary Security

Despite escalating threats from insurgents to disrupt Sunday's historic elections in Iraq, election workers in the capital, Baghdad, say they are confident that most polling centers in the city will be safe for voters.

A high school for boys in the Jadriyah district of Baghdad has been temporarily transformed into a polling center for Sunday's elections.

The center's manager and the principal of the school, Talib Ibrahim Hussein, says he is far too excited about making Iraqi history to worry about insurgent threats to attack his school.

Mr. Hussein says it is the first time most Iraqis have been given a chance to participate in democracy. He says everyone at the school knows how important that is and has worked hard to make sure that voting can take place without disruptions.

He proudly gives journalists a tour of the five classrooms, which will be used as polling stations on Sunday. Each room contains three to four cardboard booths set up for voters.

There are also two sealed plastic ballot boxes on tables in each classroom. They sit in front of two neat stacks of ballot papers. Mr. Hussein explains that voters will get a ballot from each stack. One ballot lists the political entities running for the new interim Iraqi assembly, and the other ballot names candidates seeking seats on the Baghdad provincial council.

To prevent double-voting, voters will be required to have their fingers dipped in indelible ink, after they make their choices.

For the past few days, insurgents have been distributing leaflets in various Baghdad neighborhoods, vowing to "wash the streets with the blood of voters." Scores of police, Iraqi soldiers, candidates and election workers have already been killed in the capital.

A young woman, who volunteered to work alongside security forces on Sunday at the school, says she knows the enormous risk she will face on Sunday. But Majida Molla says she is not frightened.

"This is a chance to help my country, and to exercise my rights,” she said. “How could I not volunteer?"

In anticipation of heightened election violence around the country, Iraqi officials have imposed extraordinary security measures that are to be in effect at least through Monday. The measures include closing the borders, shutting down Baghdad International Airport and restricting car travel.

A strict 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew went into effect for most of Iraq on Friday, and streets around many polling sites were barricaded with concrete blast-resistant walls.

Despite the precautions, pre-election mayhem continued on Saturday across the country.

In the Kurdish town of Khanaqin, northeast of Baqubah near the Iranian border, a suicide bomber blew himself up in front a police station, killing eight people.

Shortly before the suicide attack, insurgents fired rockets at an Iraqi army base in Dululiyah, north of Baghdad. Three soldiers were killed in that attack.

In the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, west of the capital, the bodies of five Iraqis, one of them beheaded, were found on a city street. Insurgents accused them of working for Americans.

And at least eight Iraqi cities, from as far north as Dahouk to Basra in the south, reported attacks on polling centers.