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Bombings around Iraq kill 8 ahead of elections UN warns of ‘highly divisive’ polls

 BAGHDAD, April 2, (Agencies): A series of bombings in Iraq killed eight people Wednesday, including army recruits, as the country prepares for parliamentary elections later this month. The deadliest attack took place in the town of Riyadh, about 300 kms (180 miles) northwest of the capital, Baghdad. There, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives while standing next to army recruits waiting in line at the gate of a military base to apply for jobs early in the morning, police Col Fatah Rasheed said. The explosion killed five recruits and wounded 14, Rasheed said. Separately, police said a bomb blast in a commercial street killed two people and wounded six in Madain, about 20 kms (14 miles) southeast of Baghdad. In western Baghdad, a bomb exploded in a commercial street, killing one person and wounded five, police said. Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to journalists. Sunni insurgents in Iraq frequently attack members of security forces in a bid to undermine the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. The attack came a day after the United Nations appealed for unity to reduce sectarian violence ahead of Iraq’s April 30 elections. In 2013, more than 8,800 people were killed in violence, the highest toll since the worst of Iraq’s sectarian bloodshed began to subside in 2007. The trend has continued this year.

The latest attack in Riyadh, a mostly- Sunni town in ethnically mixed Kirkuk province, along with violence elsewhere in the country that left two policemen dead, comes with the country suffering neardaily violence. The bloodshed is part of a long list of voter concerns that include lengthy power cuts and poor running water and sewerage services, rampant corruption and high unemployment. But campaigns are rarely fought on individual issues, with parties instead appealing to voters’ ethnic, sectarian or tribal allegiances or resorting to trumpeting well-known personalities.

A lack of effort at cross-sectarian politics could, Mladenov said, be a major issue. “Campaigning will be highly divisive,” UN’s envoy to Iraq Nickolay Mladenor, told AFP from his office in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone complex. “Everyone is ratcheting it up to the maximum, and you could see this even before officially the campaign started.” The former Bulgarian foreign and defence minister added: “I would hope that it would be more about issues, and how the country deals with its challenges, but at this point, it’s a lot about personality attacks.” “The efforts to reach across the sectarian divide are very weak.” He declined to name specific offenders, instead blaming “all the political parties” for the rhetoric. The sharp rise in violence over the past year has fuelled fears Iraq is slipping back into the sort of all-out communal conflict that killed tens of thousands in 2006 and 2007. UN figures released Tuesday put the toll for March at 592 dead.

That did not include the conflict-hit desert province of Anbar, where militants have kept control of the town of Fallujah, a short drive from Baghdad, for nearly three months. Mladenov also pushed for lawmakers to urgently pass the annual budget, which has languished in parliament over an energy dispute between the central government and the autonomous Kurdish region

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