Voting begins in Iraq under tight security

Iraqis passed through security checkpoints and police cordons to vote Saturday in provincial elections that are considered a crucial test of the nation's stability as US officials consider the pace of troop withdrawals. Polls opened shortly after dawn after a step-by-step security clampdown across the country, including traffic bans in central Baghdad and other major cities and a closure of border crossings and airports. There were no reports of serious violence as voting got under way. In Tikrit, about 130 kilometers north of Baghdad, three mortar shells exploded near a polling station, but caused no casualties, said police, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.