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Blackout, attacks mar eve of Iraq vote
Updated: 2005-10-15 10:31

Electricity went out for hours across the greater Baghdad area Friday evening, and Sunni insurgents launched five attacks on the largest Sunni Arab political party, all on the eve of Iraq's vote on whether to approve a new constitution.

An Iraqi raises his inked finger after voting in the constitutional referendum in the southern Iraq city of Basra, October 15, 2005. Polls opened on time on Saturday for the country's landmark referendum, with more than 15 million Iraqis registered to vote "yes" or "no" to a new draft constitution. [Reuters]

Insurgents bombed and burned the party's offices and the home of one of its leaders in retaliation after the group dropped its opposition to the draft constitution.

The cause of the blackout was not immediately clear. Mahmoud al-Saaedi, the head of the information office of the Electricity Ministry in Baghdad, said "technical problems" cut off electricity on lines from northern Iraq. He said there was no sign insurgent sabotage was the cause.

Iraqi and U.S. forces have clamped down with intensive security measures to prevent insurgent attacks on voters at the poll on Saturday. The lights went out soon after the sunset breaking of the daily fast of the holy month of Ramadan, at around 6 p.m. and were still off more than two hours later — ahead of the start of the 10 p.m. curfew.

The Baghdad skyline was black except for pinpoints of light from private generators. The blackout appeared to have affected much of the Baghdad governorate, an area of about 2,250 square miles.

"This has affected large areas of the central Iraq and other large surrounding regions," he told The Associated Press. "Our crews are working on fixing them and the problem could be solved soon and the power will be back gradually."
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