Security forces storm Sunni protest camp in western Iraq

Photo: Security forces storm Sunni protest camp in western Iraq / Iraq

Iraqi security forces stormed a Sunni protest camp Monday in Ramadi city, in the western province of Anbar, triggering deadly clashes, local media reported, dpa reported.

Cabinet spokesman Ali Musawi said security forces dispersed the sit-in and removed the tents set up by protesters. Two cars packed with explosives were found in the square and dismantled by police officers, he said.

Earlier this year, Sunnis launched mass demonstrations in several provinces where they form a majority to denounce the Shiite-led government.

The Alsumaria news website reported that 10 people were killed in fighting between joint army and police forces and tribesmen in Fallujah city, near Ramadi.

The clashes erupted after security forces stormed the sit-in. At least 40 people were injured.

Earlier Monday, officials said residents defied a province-wide curfew to join the protesters. Communications were subsequently cut off across the area.

The government launched a crackdown in Anbar in December after 16 military personnel, including a senior commander, were killed in an attack by militants with suspected ties to al-Qaeda.

Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has dubbed the campaign "Revenge for Commander Mohammed," a reference to major general Mohammed al-Karawi who was killed in the December 21 attack.

The protesters want al-Maliki to repeal laws that they claim target Sunnis. One such law prohibits former members of the Baath Party of ex-dictator Saddam Hussein from holding senior government positions.

In addition, an anti-terrorism law has resulted in a disproportionately high number of Sunni prisoners, its critics argue.

In April, more than 50 people were killed during a stand-off between the army and Sunni protesters in the northern city of Kirkuk.

An increase in violence in recent months has raised the prospect of a return to the sectarian violence that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007.

According to UN estimates, 659 people were killed in attacks in Iraq in November alone.

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