An election official, Safwat Rasheed, announced on Friday that the Shia United Iraqi Alliance captured 128 of the 275 seats in the 15 December election.

The figure is down from the 146 it won in the January 2005 vote and means it will need to seek coalition partners in order to govern.

With Baghdad all but sealed off by security forces on alert for attacks by Sunni Arab rebels who accused the ruling Shia groups  of cheating in last month's poll, two civilians were killed in one of several bomb attacks on US and Iraqi patrols.

Release pleas

Troops and police blocked off roads between Baghdad and the
unsettled provinces of Anbar, Salah al-Din and Diyala and were also hunting kidnappers who threatened to kill an American journalist by a Friday deadline.

The results in full

United Iraqi Alliance
(Shia including Iraqi Prime
Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari): 128 seats.

Kurdish Coalition (comprising parties led by President Jalal Talabani and Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani): 53 seats

Iraqi Accordance Front (Sunni Arab): 44 seats.

Iraqi Front for National Dialogue (Sunni Arab): 11 seats.

Iraqi National List (secular led by ex-PM Iyad Allawi): 25 seats.

Islamic Part of Kurdistan: 5 seats.

Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc (Sunni Arab): 3 seats.

Risaliyoun (Shia): 2 seats.

Turkomen Iraqi Front (Ethnic Turks): 1 seat.

Iraqi Nation List (Sunni): 1 seat.
Yazidi minority religious sect: 1 seat.

Al-Rafidian List (Christian): 1 seat.

Leading Sunni Arab figures joined Jill Carroll's family and colleagues in calling for her release.

Sunni parties and voters boycotted the 2005 election but they will have a more vocal presence in the new assembly after a Sunni list, the Iraqi Accordance Front, won 44 seats. Another Sunni coalition headed by Saleh al-Mutlaq finished with 11 seats. A few other Sunnis won seats on smaller lists.

Despite angry reactions to the rejection of their complaints about the 15 December vote, many Sunni political leaders are already discussing places in a grand coalition government and talks are expected to start shortly with Shia and Kurdish groups.

No Kurdish delight

Kurds saw their seat total reduced. An alliance of the two major Kurdish parties won 53 seats, down from the 75 they took in the January 2005 election.

A rival Kurdish faction, the Kurdish Islamic Group, won five seats while a group headed by secular Shia former prime minister Iyad Allawi won 25 seats, down from 40 in the outgoing assembly.

Politicians now have four days to contest the results, which
were largely in line with early, preliminary returns following the balloting. Officials will have another 10 days to study any complaints before they certify the results and parliament can convene to appoint a new government.

US officials hope that a greater Sunni voice in the new
parliament will help defuse the insurgency so that they can begin to scale down their military presence.