News / Middle East

Iraq Police Break Up Sunni Protest Camp

Gunmen takeover a police vehicle in Ramadi, Iraq, Dec. 30 2013.
Gunmen takeover a police vehicle in Ramadi, Iraq, Dec. 30 2013.
Fighting erupted when Iraqi police broke up a Sunni Muslim protest camp in the western Anbar province on Monday, leaving at least 13 people dead, police and medical sources said.

The camp has been an irritant to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite Muslim-led government since Sunni protesters set it up a year ago to demonstrate against what they see as marginalization of their sect.

The operation triggered an immediate political backlash as dozens of Sunni lawmakers offered their resignations.

Maliki, who is seeking a third term in April's elections, has repeatedly vowed to remove the camp and accused protesters of stirring strife and sheltering al-Qaida-linked militants.

Violence has spiked this year as al-Qaida-linked militants target the government and anyone seen to be supporting it, raising fears of a return to the sectarian conflict of 2006-2007 that killed tens of thousands.

Another 11 people died in separate attacks across Iraq on Monday. Police sources said Monday's clashes broke out when gunmen opened fire on police special forces trying to enter Ramadi, the western city where the protest camp is located. The gunmen destroyed four police vehicles and killed at least three policemen in the north of Ramadi, one source said. The bodies of 10 other people killed in the clashes were brought into Ramadi's morgue, hospital and morgue sources said.

In Fallujah, gunmen attacked army patrols deployed along the main highway leading to Ramadi. Many Sunnis resent Shi'ite domination of Iraq's politics since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003 and empowered majority Shi'ites through the ballot box.

Sheik Abdul Malik Al-Saadi, an influential Sunni cleric who had called on protesters to remain peaceful, denounced the operation and called on security forces to withdraw immediately to prevent further bloodshed. Calling Maliki's government a "sectarian government that wants to smash and eradicate the Sunni people in its country", he urged Sunni ministers, parliament members and local officials to resign and boycott the political process.

A few hours later, over 40 Sunni lawmakers - a substantial portion of parliament - offered their resignations. Although not effective unless accepted by parliament's speaker, the resignations put further pressure on Maliki.

Prominent Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq called for all lawmakers from the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc to withdraw from the political process, saying it had hit a "dead end".

"Elections in this atmosphere would be settled in advance, therefore we should raise our voices high and say the political process cannot proceed in this way," he told reporters.

Tensions have been rising over the past few weeks in Anbar, a province that makes up a third of Iraq's territory and is populated mainly by Sunnis living along the Euphrates River. The army launched a major operation there to flush out al-Qaida militants after an attack killed at least 18 soldiers including an army commander on Dec. 21.

Then on Saturday security forces arrested a prominent Sunni lawmaker from the Iraqiya bloc in the area after killing his brother in a firefight with his bodyguards. The incident prompted Saadi, the Sunni cleric, to urge Sunni protesters to "defend themselves".

Elsewhere in Iraq, three separate bombs in Baghdad killed at least eight people, police said.

Three policemen were also found dead on the side of a road in the western Abu Ghraib district after gunmen abducted them, police said. In Tikrit, the deputy governor of Salahuddin province escaped unharmed after a car bomb exploded near his convoy, wounding four of his bodyguards, police said. At least 10 people were wounded when a car bomb exploded near a Shi'ite mosque in southern part of Kirkuk, police said.

More than 8,000 people have been killed across Iraq this year, according to the United Nations.

You May Like

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs