On Saturday, Iraqi election officials ordered transport bans and night-time curfews during the polls.

Iraq's borders will also be sealed off, while all civilian airports and provincial borders will be shut from 10pm (19:00 GMT) on Friday
until 5 am (02:00 GMT) on February 1, the election commission said.

"In no instance will any car be authorised to approach a polling station," it said.

Iraqi police say they have evidence to suggest that al-Qaeda fighters are still operating in Garma, which lies in the western desert province of Anbar.

The province was the main stronghold of al-Qaeda, a key player in the Sunni Muslim Arab resistance to the US invasion, but tribal chieftains have forced out al-Qaeda over the last two years.

Although Anbar is now calmer, analysts say that tensions between Sunnis are increasing in the run-up to the provincial elections.