Police stations burn as Anbar insurgents renew Iraqi violence

Photo: Police stations burn as Anbar insurgents renew Iraqi violence  / Iraq

Insurgents Wednesday torched at least five police stations in the volatile western Iraqi province of Anbar, adding to a week of unrest launched when security forces cleared out a Sunni protest camp and detained a prominent lawmaker, said security officials, dpa reported.

Gunmen attacked police stations in the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, two main cities in Anbar and seized weapons from security personnel before setting the facilities on fire, added the officials.

The new unrest prompted Anbar Governor Ahmed al-Delmi to call on Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Malaki to deploy army troops across the mostly Sunni province.

"We call on the general commander of the armed forces (al-Maliki) to order the army to enter the province's towns to keep order and restore stability," al-Delmi told independent broadcaster Alsumaria News.

Clashes, meanwhile, were reported between security forces and local insurgents in northern Fallujah, according to media reports. There were no reports of casualties.

The violence came hours after Iraqi authorities lifted a four-day-old curfew on the mostly Sunni province of Anbar.

Tensions broke out in Anbar on Saturday when authorities arrested Sunni parliamentarian Ahmed al-Alwani in Ramadi, reportedly on terrorism charges.

Security forces on Monday stormed a Sunni protest camp in Ramadi and removed tents set up by protesters. The crackdown triggered clashes between government troops and local insurgents.

The incident prompted 44 members of parliament to resign in protest.

Al-Maliki said the clampdown came after appeals from locals to clear the protest site, which had allegedly become a hotbed of militants with suspected links to al-Qaeda.

Earlier last year, Sunnis launched mass demonstrations in several Iraqi provinces in which they form a majority, to denounce al-Maliki's Shiite-led government.

The protesters demanded repeal of laws they claim target Sunnis, including one that 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, critics argue.

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