Death Toll Mounts as Iraqis Vote

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BAGHDAD - At least 12 people were killed in a mortar shelling in northern Baghdad on Sunday morning as Iraqis headed toward polling stations in the nation's second parliamentary election since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to oust former dictator Saddam Hussein.

At least two children were among the victims of the shelling, which leveled a two-story apartment building.

As polling stations opened at 7:00 a.m., eight people were confirmed dead in a bombing in a western Baghdad neighborhood and another four were killed in a residential neighborhood near Sadr City.

Insurgents, attempting disrupt the elections, began firing rounds of mortar shells at dawn.

According to local authorities, at least 20 mortar shells have exploded in the predominately Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah since daybreak .

Islamists lobbed mortars toward the heavily fortified Green Zone, where the U.S. embassy and the prime minister's office are located.

By mid-morning, the death toll had reached 25.

Iraqi security forces have sealed the borders, closed the airport and are allowing only authorized vehicles on the roads.

Some 6,200 candidates are on the ballot for the 325-member parliament.

With the Obama administration's plan to withdraw its combat troops in late summer and the remainder of its forces by year's end, Iraqis hope the parliamentary elections will bring them closer to national reconciliation.

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AP contributed to this report.

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