Mohammed Hato  /  AP
A member of the Maram coalition of 48 political entities, which opposes the results of the Dec. 15. elections, holds a ballot paper that the group claims is fake, at a Tuesday press conference in Baghdad, Iraq. news services
updated 1/3/2006 7:22:00 PM ET 2006-01-04T00:22:00

An international team began reviewing the hundreds of complaints filed over Iraq’s parliamentary elections, and an Iraqi elections official said Tuesday that results might not be ready for two more weeks.

U.S. aircraft, meanwhile, bombed a building where insurgents were thought to be hiding north of Baghdad, killing seven people, Iraqi police said.

In the capital, the sister of Iraq’s interior minister was kidnapped by gunmen who killed one of her bodyguards and seriously wounded another, an Interior Ministry official said.

The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq has completed its investigation of almost 2,000 election complaints and will announce the findings Wednesday, commission member Hussein Hindawi told The Associated Press.

But the commission won’t announce final election results until an international team finishes its work, meaning they might not be ready for two weeks, said commission member Safwat Rashid. Officials previously said final results of the Dec. 15 vote would be announced in early January.

The commission investigated 1,980 complaints, including 50 that were considered serious enough to alter results in some districts, an election official said.

The international team, which began its work Monday, agreed to review Iraq’s elections after protests by Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups that the polls were tainted with fraud.

Preliminary results give the governing Shiite religious bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, a big lead, but one that would still require forming a coalition with other groups.

U.S. bombing elicits reactions
U.S. aircraft bombed a house late Monday in Beiji, site of Iraq’s largest oil refinery, killing seven people and wounding four, Iraqi police Capt. Arkan Jassim said. The U.S. military said an unmanned aircraft spotted three men planting a roadside bomb in the city 155 miles north of Baghdad, and that Navy F-14s bombed a nearby building the three had entered.

Among the casualties were two police officers, one killed, the other wounded. The youngest casualty was 14, said the local police chief, Col. Sufyan Mustafa.

“I absolutely confirm there were no terrorists in this house,” Mustafa told Reuters. “Even if there had been, why didn’t they surround the area and detain the terrorists instead?”

A statement issued by the U.S. 101st Airborne Division in response to an inquiry about the deaths in Beiji said soldiers monitoring film from a reconnaissance drone spotted three men apparently digging a hole by a road around 9 p.m. (1800 GMT).

Pilots were alerted, the military said: “The individuals ... were followed from the air to a nearby building. Coalition forces employed precision-guided munitions on the structure.”

Sunnis oppose attack
A U.S. spokesmen gave no casualty figure and had no immediate comment on whether a roadside bomb had been found.

A local official of the biggest Sunni Arab political group, the Iraqi Islamic Party, called for demonstrations: “This is a historic crime and another catastrophe for the people of Beiji.

“If there were gunmen or criminals in that house, is it right to blow up the whole family?” said Ali al-Ajeel.

Hussein al-Falluji, a prominent lawyer and a national leader of the Sunni-dominated Iraqi Accordance Front, said: “Once again the occupiers have shown their barbarism. They never learn from their mistakes... People’s resentment is increasing.”

Last week, the military said an airstrike killed 10 people near the nearby town of Hawija after pilots tracked men who had been spotted digging by a roadside.

8 killed in Baghdad attacks
In other violence, eight people were killed Tuesday in three attacks in Baghdad.

Gunmen attacked a car carrying construction workers in a western neighborhood, killing three, police Capt. Qasim Hussein said. Another car carrying civilians was fired on in the same area, killing two people, said police 1st Lt. Thair Mahmoud. Three civilians elsewhere in Baghdad were shot to death, police said.

Interior Minister Bayan Jabr’s sister was kidnapped in northeastern Baghdad, said Adnan Thabet, commander of the Interior Ministry’s special forces. He did not provide any other details about the kidnapping or the minister’s sister — including her name or age.

Jabr is a member of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq — the country’s largest Shiite party, also known as SCIRI. He was formerly a senior official of the Badr Brigade, a militia that belongs to SCIRI.

Jabr has in recent weeks been the focus of criticism over allegations of torture and abuse at Interior Ministry prisons. Many of the those abused were Sunnis, the group thought to fuel the insurgency.

Police commander’s nephew kidnapped
Also Tuesday, the nephew of Maj. Gen. Ali Al-Yasiri, commander of the Baghdad rescue police, was kidnapped, Hussein said.

Members of the International Mission for Iraqi Elections were in Baghdad to investigate fraud complaints, verify vote counts and review the decision by Iraq’s election commission to remove 90 people from Saddam Hussein’s outlawed Baath party from the tickets of political parties, Rashid said. It wasn’t known how many of the 2,000 complaints the team would investigate.

The Iraqi election commission, which is separate from the international team, will study the international team’s findings before it announces final results of the Dec. 15 elections, Rashid said.

“If they work hard they might finish within a week,” he said.

It took about two weeks to announce final results from interim parliamentary elections on Jan. 30, 2005.

In other developments:
Oil Minister Ahmad Chalabi met with coalition officials to discuss ways to bring the oil refinery in Beiji — Iraq’s largest — back on line after it stopped production Dec. 18 because tanker truck drivers refused to make deliveries across dangerous desert roads. Chalabi said recent attacks on the country’s oil pipelines make it clear that insurgents are trying to prevent the refinery from operating.

Also, the satellite news channel Al-Arabiya showed footage of Jordanian hostage Mahmoud Suleiman Saidat. His captors said they had given Jordan’s government more time to meet demands that it cut ties with the Baghdad government and free a female would-be suicide bomber whose explosives belt failed to go off during Nov. 9 attacks that killed 60 people in Amman.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.


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