Iraqi official says militants have issued death threats ahead of April's provincial elections

An Iraqi official says militants have issued death threats against employees of the country's election commission, raising concerns about security ahead of the upcoming provincial balloting.

The April 20 vote is the first nationwide ballot since 2010 and an important test for embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Muqdad al-Shuraifi, a member of the election commission, said on Thursday that commission employees in the predominantly Sunni provinces of Salahuddin and Ninevah have received death threats from militants. He would not elaborate.

He says the weekly anti-government demonstrations by the Sunni minority could make it more difficult to ensure security and a "fair election" in western and northern Iraq.'

He says 131 of 8,224 candidates for 18 provincial councils have been disqualified for alleged ties to Saddam Hussein now-disbanded Baath party.