As of Monday, May 7, at least five candidates had been killed in advance of the upcoming May 12 parliamentary elections in Iraq. The figure includes the deaths of two candidates who were killed on Monday in Qayyara and in the village of Lazaka, south of Mosul; while the Islamic State (IS) group has claimed responsibility for both killings, subsequent reports have suggested that, in fact, the men were killed in family and political disputes. A continuing heightened risk of political violence is expected in Iraq ahead of the May 12 vote. Earlier in April, IS threatened to attack voters and polling stations during the election. IS attacks on parliamentary candidates, voters, and polling stations are possible in the coming days.
A heightened security presence is expected in the 72 hours before the vote, particularly near polling centers; associated traffic restrictions are expected in Baghdad. Airports throughout Iraq may also close on May 12. Though no official announcement has yet been made to that effect, airports were closed on short notice during the 2014 elections.
IS also claimed responsibility for the April 7 suicide attack on the headquarters of the Al-Hal (Solution) political party in Anbar province. At least four people were killed and another seven wounded in the attack.
The campaign period for national legislative elections in Iraq began on April 14. Voters will select more than 300 members of parliament, who will, in turn, elect the president and prime minister. An elevated terrorist risk is expected for the duration of the campaign period, although the capabilities of militant groups such as IS remain limited.
Although Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi claimed victory over IS in December 2017, the group retains a degree of freedom of movement in the northeast (Hamrim Mountains), near the Tigris and Zab rivers, in rural regions of Anbar province, and along the Syrian border in the west. IS militants continue to carry out attacks, notably against security forces.
The security environment in Iraq remains complex. Although travel is possible in some areas with proper security protocols in place, other areas should be considered strictly off-limits. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to all travel.
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