Rumors swept the Iraqi capital before dawn Thursday that the city's water supply had been poisoned, prompting a public denial from the Health Ministry only hours before polls were to open for national parliamentary elections.
Warnings against drinking tap water were first broadcast through mosque loudspeakers starting about 1 a.m., in a wide area of the city, including the districts of Sadr City, Shaab, Azamiyah and along Palestine street.
Residents were awakened to hear that it was unsafe to drink tap water "because there was been cases of poison."
The rumors spread so rapidly that the country's heath ministry, Abdel Mutalib Mohammed, issued a statement broadcast about 2:30 a.m. on state-run Iraqiya television, advising that "there are no cases of poison in the water system and all this news is untrue."
However, the statement said there had been "some cases of food poison" in the eastern Obeidi district of the city. No further details were released.