BAGHDAD (AP) – Iraqi police imposed a curfew Friday in the northern city of Mosul, banning vehicles and barring its residents from leaving their homes until they go to cast their ballot in this weekend’s provincial elections, an Iraqi police official said.
It was the first step in a series of blanket security measures scheduled to take effect in advance of the elections, which included closing Iraq’s international borders, ordering traffic bans across Baghdad and major cities and halting air traffic. Hundreds of women, including teachers and civic workers, have been recruited to help search women voters after a rise in female suicide bombers last year.
More than 14,400 candidates are competing for 440 seats in 14 of the country’s 18 provinces.
Mosul’s city borders were closed Friday morning to vehicles and a citywide curfew was scheduled to take effect several hours later, said Police officer Col. Safaa Abdul-Razzaq, spokesman for the joint operations command in the Ninevah province.
Abdul-Razzaq said the curfew was imposed to curb any potential violence during voting in Iraq’s third largest city. The vehicle ban is in place in Mosul until Sunday.
While Baghdad and other cities in Iraq have enjoyed substantial security gains, Iraq and U.S. forces continue to battle al-Qaida and other insurgents in Mosul. The multiethnic city has been one of the hardest to tame after insurgents fled to the area following U.S.-Iraq security crackdowns elsewhere.
Tensions rose ahead of the elections as Kurdish and mainly Sunni parties jockeyed for power.
The U.S. military is taking a sideline role in direct security for the elections, but plan to send heavy troop deployments into the streets during the voting.
The move to close the city comes a day after attacks left three candidates dead. Among those killed was a candidate in Mosul.
Gunmen fired from a passing car and killed a candidate and former army officer, Hazim Salim, a member of the Unity List, a group of independent Sunni politicians, according to an Iraqi police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
On Friday, a roadside bomb found south of Baghdad killed two officers and wounded 14 others after it exploded while they were trying to diffuse it, another Iraqi police official said.
The bomb exploded inside a police compound in Diwaniyah where it was taken to be diffused by an explosive ordnance disposal team, said the official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.