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Iraq ready to roll out election security plan

By Khalid al-Taie

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An Iraqi soldier is stationed outside a school in Diyala province, which will serve as a polling station in the upcoming May 12th parliamentary elections. [Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Defence]

Preparations for securing the May 12th parliamentary polls in Iraq have been completed, officials told Diyaruna, with a security plan to be rolled out across all provinces allocating specific responsibilities to the various security agencies.

In Diyala province, preparations started early to secure polling stations and their surrounding area, said Diyala police spokesman Col. Ghaleb al-Attiya.

There is "ongoing communication" with the Ministry of Interior, Electoral Commission and security apparatuses to implement the plan, he told Diyaruna.

"Police personnel will be responsible for securing the polling stations as well as areas and roads leading to them," he said.

The army and intelligence services will support the police by deploying in the vicinity of the province's 460 polling stations and fending off any threats, he said, as well as providing air cover and emergency response to any incidents.

Pre-emptive operations

Iraqi forces have stepped up pre-emptive strikes against ISIS remnants in recent weeks to thwart any potential plans to target the elections, al-Attiya said.

"In recent weeks, we have conducted large-scale search operations in different areas and managed to detain no less than 30 individuals wanted on criminal and terrorist charges," he said.

Weapons and ammunition caches also were destroyed during these raids.

On Sunday (May 6th), Iraqi forces arrested two "dangerous terrorists" in Diyala province, one of whom is the "administrative officer of wilayat Diyala", said ministry of defense spokesman Maj. Gen. Tahseen al-Khafaji.

He was arrested by forces from the Directorate of Military Intelligence and led them to a hidden cache of large quantities of weapons and equipment, al-Khafaji told Diyaruna.

Security forces have undergone additional training to boost their level of preparedness and enhance their ability to protect the elections, al-Attiya said.

ISIS's latest threats to target the elections merely serve "to incite fear", he said.

"Terrorist elements are now too weak to mount any significant attack," he said, stressing that "security forces are up to the task and will not give terrorists the opportunity to achieve their goals".

ISIS’s threats are nothing but "an act of desperation", said Ninawa provincial council member Khalaf al-Hadidi, pointing out that the group "is part of the past" and is only left with its empty propaganda.

"Our troops are well prepared to protect the elections according to a well thought out plan," he told Diyaruna, adding that the 125 main voting centres in Ninawa will be surrounded by "two security belts".

"The first consists of the local police and the second of the army," he said.

Passageways have been opened to facilitate access to the polling stations and checkpoints are in place to prevent any security breaches, he said, noting that security forces will remain outside the stations throughout the voting process.

'Brighter future' for Iraq

Anbar province is "fully prepared" to hold the parliamentary elections, provincial council member Naeem al-Koud told Diyaruna.

The security plan for the province includes pre-emptive operations to clear the Anbar desert of remaining ISIS cells, and enhancing border security to prevent any infiltration attempts from Syria, he said.

Security forces are on high alert in Anbar cities and towns, he said, "with patrols and checkpoints in place, as well as surveillance operations and investigations to find sleeper cells".

"Security preparedness for the elections has been achieved in terms of equipment and forces," he added, noting that security forces have received training on how to deal with emergencies and respond to any threat.

"The upcoming elections will paint a brighter future for the country," al-Koud said, stressing that ISIS will not be permitted to turn the clock back, and "Iraqis will march forward to build their democracy".

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