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44 Iraq MPs resign after protest camp cleared
 
 
 

BAGHDAD/RAMAD -   Forty-four Iraqi MPs announced their resignation on Monday after security forces demolished a Sunni anti-government protest site and detained a lawmaker.
The announcement was made at a televised news conference at which the MPs also demanded “the withdrawal of the army... and the release of MP Ahmed al-Alwani,” who was arrested during a deadly raid on Saturday.
Clashes broke out Monday in the Ramadi area, west of Baghdad, as security forces dismantled a protest camp where demonstrators had gathered for more than a year.
Ten militants died in the fighting, which also spread to the nearby city of Fallujah.
Protests broke out in Sunni Arab-majority areas of Iraq in December 2012 after the arrest of guards of then-finance minister Rafa al-Essawi, an influential Sunni Arab, on terrorism charges.
Protests broke out in Sunni Arab-majority areas of Iraq late last year after the arrest of guards of then-finance minister Rafa al-Essawi, an influential Sunni Arab, on terrorism charges.
The demonstrations have tapped into longstanding grievances of protesters, who say they are marginalised by the government and unfairly targeted with heavy-handed tactics by security forces.
The violence, which follows a raid on a Sunni MP’s home in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, in which he was arrested and his brother killed, threatens to escalate already-widespread anger among Iraq’s minority Sunni Arab community.
An AFP journalist saw the body of one person and said at least 10 more people had been wounded in an area of Ramadi that adjoins the protest site, where demonstrators have gathered for more than a year.
Security forces were deployed near the site and helicopters could be seen firing into the area, the journalist said, adding that two security forces vehicles were burned and gunmen had seized a third.
As the fighting raged, some mosques in the city used loudspeakers to exhort people to “go to jihad”, or holy war. Mobile phone connections in the city were down.
Iraqiya state TV had earlier said that “local police are removing the tents from the protest site in Anbar” province, after an agreement between security forces, religious leaders and tribal sheikhs.
It also quoted the police chief of Anbar province, of which Ramadi is the capital, as saying that security forces found two car bombs as well as other bombs and explosives at the site. The sprawling camp, located on the highway near Ramadi, included a stage from which speakers could address the crowds, a large roofed structure with open sides to provide shade, and dozens of tents.
The violence in Ramadi comes after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said last week the camp had become a headquarters for Al-Qaeda, and called on legitimate demonstrators to leave. “I say clearly and honestly that the sit-in site in Anbar has turned into a headquarters for the leadership of Al-Qaeda,” Maliki said.
He called on “those who are with them in this place who refuse sabotage and who have legal or illegal demands... to leave these camps, and leave this place, so that Al-Qaeda stays alone”. He added that protesters had a “very short period” in which to leave. Protests broke out in Sunni Arab-majority areas of Iraq late last year after the arrest of guards of then-finance minister Rafa al-Essawi, an influential Sunni Arab, on terrorism charges.
In December 2011, guards of vice president Tareq al-Hashemi, another prominent Sunni politician, were arrested and accused of terrorism. Hashemi fled Iraq and has since been given multiple death sentences in absentia for charges including murder.
The demonstrations have tapped into long-standing grievances of Sunnis, who say they are both marginalised by the government and unfairly targeted with heavy-handed tactics by security forces.
In another incident that has escalated tensions, security forces on Saturday raided the Ramadi home of Sunni Arab MP Ahmed al-Alwani, who backs the anti-government protesters, arresting him and sparking clashes that killed his brother, five guards and a security forces member.

 
 
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