Iraq’s Kurds to hold local elections in September

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s self-ruled Kurdish region announced Thursday that new parliamentary and presidential elections will be held on Sept. 21, as violence rose ahead of weekend provincial elections elsewhere in the country.

A car bomb exploded on Thursday, killing three soldiers and wounding five others traveling in an army convoy in Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad. Hours later, one policeman was killed and three others were wounded when gunmen attacked a security checkpoint in western Baghdad, police said.

A government statement said that Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish region, approved the date for the elections and called for transparent ballots.

Following the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the Kurdish area was recognized as an autonomous region that is in many ways politically independent from Baghdad. Since then, the two main Kurdish parties — the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Democratic Party of Kurdistan — have joined forces to rule the oil-rich region.

Baghdad and the Kurds have been at loggerheads for years over several issues, including oil and control over disputed areas claimed by both sides. The vote for a new 111-seat National Assembly would be the third election in the three-province region since 2005.

Two hospital officials confirmed the casualties in Thursday’s attacks. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

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AP writer Sinan Salaheddin contributed.

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