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Fire breaks out at ballot warehouse in Baghdad

The ballot boxes are part of a manual recount of votes from the May election ordered by parliament.

A fire broke out in a Baghdad warehouse where ballot boxes from Iraq's parliamentary election last month were stored, local officials said.

The ballot boxes are part of a manual recount of votes from an eastern Baghdad district. A week earlier, parliament passed a law for a recount of 11 million votes, following allegations of fraud during the May 12 elections.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately known but a local official said that boxes containing the votes from the al-Rusafa district, on the eastern side of the river Tigris, have all been scorched.

"Civil defence forces are on the way, but I can tell you all the boxes and papers have burned," Mohammed al-Rabeei, a Baghdad province council member, said.

However, an interior ministry spokesman said 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, said Major General Saad Maan, and contained documents and electronic equipment.

"It is possible there were also some ballot boxes in the warehouse that caught fire, but most of the important boxes are in the three warehouses where the fire has been controlled," he said.

Iraq's outgoing parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri said that the fire was intentional, and that parliamentary elections should be repeated.

"The crime of burning ballot box storage warehouses in the Rusafa area is a deliberate act, a planned crime, aimed at hiding instances of fraud and manipulation of votes, lying to the Iraqi people and changing their will and choices," Jabouri said in a statement.

"We call for the election to be repeated," added Jabouri, who lost his seat in the election. He called for those responsible to be brought to justice by the security forces.

Full recount of votes

The election resulted in the shock victory for Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

Al-Sadr's Sairoon coalition managed to win 54 out of 328 seats, and had ran an election campaign of opposing foreign interference in Iraq, as well as promising to rebuild schools and hospitals - which were heavily damaged in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, known as ISIS) last year.

According to intelligence services, however, tests of electronic voting machines - used for the first time in Iraqi elections - produced varied results, appearing to give credence to the fraud claims.

The outgoing parliament's decision to mandate into law a full recount of the parliamentary elections last Wednesday also called for the Independent High Elections Commission's leadership to be replaced by nine judges.

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