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Iraq's Interior Minister Says Fire At Ballot Storage Site 'Deliberate'


Iraqi security forces secure the site of a fire that broke out at Baghdad's largest ballot-box storage site, where ballots from Iraq's May parliamentary elections were stored, in Baghdad on June 10.

Iraq's interior minister says the June 10 fire that destroyed the Baghdad warehouse where votes from May's legislative elections were stored ahead of a recount was started "deliberately."

The site housed ballot boxes of the Al-Rusafa district, where around 60 percent of Baghdad's 2 million eligible voters had cast their ballots in last month’s parliamentary elections.

It took firefighters several hours to bring the blaze under control.

"There is no doubt that it was a deliberate act and I am personally following up on the investigation with the criminal police and the committee tasked with probing the fire," Qassem al-Araji said June 11.

Earlier, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi had described the fire as a "plot" aimed at Iraq's democracy.

"Burning election warehouses...is a plot to harm the nation and its democracy. We will take all necessary measures and strike with an iron fist all who undermine the security of the nation and its citizens," Abadi said in a statement.

An Interior ministry spokesman said that “most of the ballot boxes...have been preserved."

However, a Baghdad Province council member said that “all the boxes and papers have burned."

The outgoing parliament speaker, Salim al-Jabouri, said the election should be repeated as a result of the fire, which he described as "a deliberate act, a planned crime, aimed at hiding instances of fraud and manipulation of votes."

Jabouri lost his seat in the May 12 legislative elections, which were won by an alliance headed by Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Amid allegations of widespread fraud, Iraq's parliament on June 6 ordered a manual recount of some 10 million votes cast in the May 12 polls.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters

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