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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Iraq elections: ISIS threatens to target polling stations 

Parliament says it will not prevent civilians from voting 

People light candles at the site of Monday's twin suicide bombings in Baghdad in January. In an audio message released late on Sunday, ISIS threatened to carry out attacks during the upcoming elections. Karim Kadim / AP
People light candles at the site of Monday's twin suicide bombings in Baghdad in January. In an audio message released late on Sunday, ISIS threatened to carry out attacks during the upcoming elections. Karim Kadim / AP

ISIS has threatened to target polling stations in Iraq during parliamentary elections next month.

In an audio message released late on Sunday, the terror group's spokesman said that anyone who participated in the vote would be considered an infidel. The insurgents accused the country's Shiite-led government of being a proxy of Iran and warned that anyone who runs or votes in the May 12 elections would be targeted.

"We warn you, Sunnis of Iraq, of these people [Shiites] taking power. Polling stations are a target for us, so stay away from them," said Abu Al Hassan Al Muhajer. In response, Iraqi security officials vowed to protect polling places.

Parliament speaker, Abdel Malik Al Husseini, told The National that threats are to be expected, but that they will not stop civilians from heading to the ballot boxes.

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"The terror group's main objective is to ensure that democracy does not prevail in Iraq, they thrive on causing instability and chaos, however, their comments will not prevent Iraqis from heading to the polls," Mr Al Husseini said, adding that "the group wants to petrify voters from going to the polling stations especially in liberated areas."

Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi declared victory over ISIS in December after security forces seized the last pockets of Iraqi territory held by the militants. But recent months have seen the insurgent group carry out attacks in the north, killing dozens of civilians.

Mr Al Abadi said earlier this month that he would “take all necessary measures” against the insurgents “if they threaten the security of Iraq."

Last Thursday, Iraqi air forces carried out strikes on insurgent cells in Syria. The strikes killed 36 militants, the military said in a statement on Sunday.

Iraqi Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said that six ISIS leaders were among those killed when Iraqi F16 jets targeted a location in which the fighters were meeting.

The US-led anti-ISIS coalition confirmed the raid, which took place near the town of Hajin in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, about 48km from the Iraqi border.

Mr Al Abadi said the raid "proved the country's commitment to destroying the remnants of ISIS that continue to threaten citizens."

The premier is seeking another term after taking office in September 2014, nearly four months after the Iraqi army collapsed in the face of an ISIS assault, leaving the extremist group in control of nearly a third of Iraq.

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