Middle East

Ten die as Iraq security forces dismantle Sunni camp

A security forces vehicle on fire in Ramadi (30 December 2013)
Image caption A security forces vehicle was set on fire in an area next to the protest camp

At least 10 people have been killed in violence as Iraqi security forces dismantled an anti-government protest camp in the western city of Ramadi.

A defence ministry spokesman said local Sunni leaders and clerics had agreed to end the 12-month sit-in peacefully.

But there were exchanges of gunfire after police moved against the Sunni camp in western Anbar province.

Hours later, some 40 members of the Iraqi parliament offered their resignations over the operation.

The MPs, from a Sunni political alliance, demanded the withdrawal of the army and the release of a Sunni politician, Ahmed al-Alwani, arrested on Saturday.

Sunni Arabs have been calling for the resignation of Shia Prime Minister Nouri Maliki for more than a year.

They accuse his government of discriminating against their minority community and unfairly targeting it with tough anti-terrorism measures which officials say have been implemented to stem the surge in sectarian violence.

The UN says more than 7,150 civilians and 950 security forces personnel have been killed since January, the highest annual toll since 2008.

'Al-Qaeda headquarters'

The protest camp in Ramadi, a predominantly Sunni city some 115km (70 miles) west of Baghdad, was situated beside the motorway to Jordan.

Defence ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari told state TV that on Sunday evening Sunni leaders had agreed to end the months-long sit-in.

Police sources said Monday's clashes broke out when gunmen opened fire on police special forces trying to enter Ramadi, Reuters reported.

A number of vehicles were attacked and burned.

Image caption Smoke billowed from parts of Ramadi as the clashes went on
Image caption Armed fighters took over police vehicles in the city and burned some of them
Image caption Gunmen could be seen on the streets of the city

An AFP journalist said security forces and helicopters could be seen firing into the area of the camp, while some mosques were using loudspeakers to exhort people to "go to jihad".

The fighting also wounded 30 gunmen, a Ramadi hospital doctor told AFP.

The move by the authorities came after Mr Maliki claimed that the protest camp had "turned into a headquarters for the leadership of al-Qaeda".

In April, a raid by security forces on a similar protest camp in the northern town of Hawija left 44 civilians and one policeman dead.

Extremist Sunni militants linked to al-Qaeda subsequently stepped up attacks across the country, while Shia groups began deadly reprisals.

Related Topics