Fire Hits Ballot-Box Storage Site In Baghdad

Iraq's biggest ballot-paper warehouse, which was being used to store votes ahead of a recount, has caught fire.

It is not clear what caused the June 10 blaze in the building, where votes for an eastern district of the capital, Baghdad, were being held.

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.

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

"Burning election 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.

Experts would conduct an investigation and prepare a detailed report on how the fire started, he said.

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