Iraqi provincial elections see 50 percent turnout
BAGHDAD: Just more than half of Iraq's 15 million registered voters cast ballots in weekend provincial elections, with turnout as low as 40 percent in at least one province, but Iraqi and international officials insisted yesterday that they were satisfied with the participation. U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker characterized the turnout as "large," and Iraq's top election official called it the most important election to take place since the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein. However, turnout failed to reach the 73 percent mark predicted by a recent Iraqi government poll of 4,570 Iraqis. Initial vote results are expected this week, but the final tally will not be known for at least two to three weeks. However, confusion over new and more stringent voter registration practices prevented some Iraqis from voting. Others said that lavish campaign spending and past performance of politicians prompted them to avoid the polls.
Israel bombs Gaza after Hamas rocket attacks
JERUSALEM : Israeli warplanes carried out airstrikes in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip late yesterday after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert threatened "disproportionate" retaliation for mortar and rocket attacks that injured three people in Israel. Witnesses reported that aircraft bombed the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, targeting tunnels used to smuggle goods and arms into Gaza. Residents of the area had been warned earlier by the Israeli army in recorded phone messages to leave their homes. A police station in the central Gaza Strip also was bombed, but no injuries were reported. The station had been vacated in expectation of an Israeli strike. The army said it bombed six smuggling tunnels and a "Hamas outpost."
Kentucky relief efforts increase after ice storm
CANEYVILLE, Ky. : Thousands of National Guard troops wielding chain saws cut their way into remote communities yesterday to reach residents stranded by a deadly ice storm, enabling some to get out of their driveways for the first time in nearly a week. The soldiers went door-to-door, handing out chili and beef stew to people cooped up in homes without power as authorities increased relief efforts for what Gov. Steve Beshear called the biggest natural disaster ever to hit the state. Kentucky was hit hardest by an ice storm that stretched from the Ozarks through Appalachia last week. Officials said the storm was a factor in at least 42 deaths, mostly from hypothermia, traffic accidents or carbon monoxide poisoning from improperly installed generators or charcoal grills used indoors.