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Huge fire burns warehouses storing ballot boxes in Baghdad
Last Updated: 2018-06-11 07:02 | Xinhua
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IRAQ-BAGHDAD-FIRE-BALLOT BOXES

Iraqi security forces and firefighters gather as smoke surges from warehouses in Baghdad, Iraq, June 10, 2018. A massive fire broke out Sunday in three warehouses containing ballot boxes of Iraq's parliamentary election in downtown capital Baghdad. (Xinhua/Khalil Dawood)

Huge fire broke out and burnt warehouses storing ballot boxes of Iraq's parliamentary election in downtown capital Baghdad on Sunday.

An Interior Ministry source told Xinhua that the incident took place in the afternoon in electoral commission's warehouses in Gailani neighborhood, which contain ballot boxes of eastern side of Risafa in Baghdad and electronic counting devices.

Heavy black smoke rose above the site as the fire extended to three out of six warehouses containing the ballot boxes, while fire engines were extinguishing the fire and civil defense policemen were trying to save some of the ballot boxes.

"The warehouses storing all the ballot boxes from Risafa area are on fire, and all the boxes have burned," Mohammed al-Rubei, member of Baghdad provincial council, told Xinhua.

A few hours later, the fire was under control, as the security forces sealed off the scene and prevented media from entering the warehouses, the interior ministry source said.

Another security force collected the unburned ballot boxes and evacuated them to safe places under tight security measures, the source said.

The warehouses are owned by the Iraqi Trade Ministry, and rented by the electoral commission to store thousands of ballot boxes, the source added.

The burned ballot boxes are part of a manual recount of votes, after the Iraqi parliament on June 6 approved recount of votes in all polling stations across Iraq over allegations of fraud and irregularities in the May 12 parliamentary election.

The parliament voted in favor of suspending the nine top officials of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), and replacing them with nine judges in order to supervise the performance of the electoral commission during the recount process.

Earlier on Sunday, the Supreme Judicial Council named nine judges to take over the country's electoral commission instead of the board of commissioners of IHEC, according to Abdul-Sattar al-Biraqdar, spokesperson of the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council.

Many Iraqi parties, especially in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan and the disputed areas, including Kirkuk Province, have complained about alleged irregularities and forgery in the parliamentary election.

The complaints put IHEC under pressure, as the electoral commission has not carried out manual recount of many ballot boxes and depended only on the electronic count of the votes.

On May 12, millions of Iraqis went to 8,959 polling centers across the country to vote for their parliamentary representatives in the first general election after Iraq's historic victory over the Islamic State group last December.

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