Four arrested in Iraq over ballot box storage blaze

Smoke rises from a storage site in Baghdad housing ballot boxes from Iraq's May parliamentary election

Smoke rises from a storage site in Baghdad housing ballot boxes from Iraq's May parliamentary election

Parliament has mandated a manual recount of the election in which a number of political parties alleged fraud.

The fire took place at a Trade Ministry site in Baghdad where the election commission stored the ballot boxes from al-Rusafa, the half of Baghdad on the eastern side of the Tigris river.

"Burning election warehouses ... is a plot to harm the nation and its democracy", Abadi proclaimed Sunday, marking the most high-profile remarks to date suggesting the fire was intentional, Al Jazeera reported Sunday.

However, an interior ministry spokesman Major General SaadMaansaid that the fire had destroyed some documents and equipment but first responders on the site were trying to prevent it from spreading to ballot boxes.The warehouse is one of four at the site and contained documents and electronic equipment.

Warehouse staff ran out of the building carrying blue and white plastic ballot boxes to safety as firefighters backed by around a dozen trucks struggled to put out the fire, an AFP reporter said.

Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri, meanwhile, claimed the fire was a "planned crime aimed at hiding cases of manipulation and falsification of votes and deceiving the Iraqi people and changing their will and choice".

The legislative elections saw a surprise victory for anti-American populist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

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A fire broke out on Sunday at a warehouse in the al-Rusafa district of the Iraqi capital Baghdad which stored the May 12 Iraqi parliamentary election ballot boxes.

Officials votes from one district were being held at the facility and some ballot boxes may have been burned but most were safe. The manual recount comes amid allegations of voter fraud. The flames over took the building on the afternoon of June 10, the same day the Judicial High Council was to announce the panel of judges who would be assigned to carry out the recount. State television said ballot boxes were moved to another location under heavy security.

The May 12 elections gave the lead to a coalition led by Shia firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, but a new government has yet to be formed.

"Nothing is known, but there are people who would not want the votes to be recounted because it would prove their fraud or they could loose even more votes", federal intelligence officer Abo Musa said.

The legislature on Wednesday also sacked the nine-member independent commission which oversaw the polls.

Less than half of Iraq's 24-million electorate took part, dumping the old guard in favor of Sadr's alliance followed by a list of former fighters of the Hashed al-Shaabi alliance that past year played a key role in the defeat of the Daesh terror group.

The Al-Nasr coalition headed by al-Abadi came third with 37 seats, while the State of Law coalition of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki won 25 and the National Alliance of Ayad Allawi emerged with 21.

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