BAGHDAD : Attacks including a spate of suicide bombings killed 57 people on Monday as soldiers and policemen cast their votes in Iraq's first parliamentary election since US troops withdrew.
The bombings in Baghdad and the north and west raise serious concerns about the security forces' ability to protect ordinary voters on polling day on Wednesday, when more than 20 million are eligible to take part.
They come amid a protracted surge in violence and fears the country is edging towards all-out conflict.
Nine attackers wearing suicide belts mostly targeted polling stations in Baghdad and cities north of the capital, while roadside bombs struck military convoys and targeted journalists covering the election.
The deadliest attack struck northeast of Baghdad in the mostly-Kurdish town of Khanaqin, near Iraq's border with Iran.
A suicide bomber killed 30 people who had gathered to celebrate the release of a video purporting to show ailing President Jalal Talabani casting his vote in Germany, where he is receiving treatment for a stroke.
At least 50 others were wounded in the attack, which struck near the offices of Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in the town.
Two suicide bombers also struck the capital.
At one polling station in west Baghdad where a militant armed with an explosives-rigged vest killed seven policemen, ambulances ferried off the wounded as soldiers cordoned off the street, an AFP journalist reported.
Five members of the security forces were killed by another suicide bomber at a polling station in the city's north.
Attacks elsewhere in the country killed 15 members of the security forces, officials said. Overall, more than 120 people were wounded in the bloodshed.
In the main northern city of Mosul, six Iraqi journalists were wounded as a bomb exploded while they were in a military vehicle to cover the vote.
The blasts shattered an early morning calm as soldiers and policemen queued outside polling stations amid tight security, before leaving with the traditional purple ink-stained finger indicating they had voted.
No group claimed responsibility for the bloodshed, but Sunni militant groups have been accused of carrying out previous suicide bombings in an attempt to derail the political process.
Government officials did not publicly comment on the attacks.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who hails from Iraq's Shiite Arab majority and is accused by critics of monopolising power and targeting minority groups, is seeking a third term in Wednesday's election.
But there is widespread public frustration over poor basic services, rampant corruption and high unemployment, as well as the persistent violence.