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Iraq holds key vote as it slides deeper into bloody strife

  • e8386e11c5b9c210520f6a706700727b.jpg

    In this Monday, April 28, 2014 photo, masked anti-government gunmen move with their weapons as they patrol in Fallujah, Iraq. Al-Qaida-linked fighters and their allies seized the city of Fallujah and parts of the Anbar provincial capital Ramadi in late December after authorities dismantled a protest camp. Like the camp in the northern Iraqi town of Hawija whose dismantlement in April sparked violent clashes and set off the current upsurge in killing, the Anbar camp was set up by Sunnis angry at what they consider second-class treatment by the Shiite-led government. (AP Photo)The Associated Press

  • Mideast Iraq-2.jpg

    In this Monday, April 28, 2014 photo, masked anti-government gunmen move with their weapons as they patrol in Fallujah, Iraq. Al-Qaida-linked fighters and their allies seized the city of Fallujah and parts of the Anbar provincial capital Ramadi in late December after authorities dismantled a protest camp. Like the camp in the northern Iraqi town of Hawija whose dismantlement in April sparked violent clashes and set off the current upsurge in killing, the Anbar camp was set up by Sunnis angry at what they consider second-class treatment by the Shiite-led government. (AP Photo)The Associated Press

Iraqis began voting in a key election for a new parliament as the country slides deeper into violence more than two years after U.S. forces left.

Polls across the Arab nation opened at 7 a.m. local time on Wednesday and will close at 6 p.m. The first national ballot after the Americans left in 2011, the election is being held amid tight security provided by hundreds of thousands troops and police.

Iraq's 22 million registered voters are electing a 328-seat parliament.

A Shiite party led by Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister of eight years, is expected to win the most seats but is unlikely to win a majority. Al-Maliki will have to cobble together a coalition if he is to retain his job for a third, four-year term.