Iraqi lawmakers protest against Govt's moves on Sunnis

Agencies    31-Dec-2013

undefinedBaghdad, December 31: Forty-four members of Iraq's parliament announced their resignation on Monday to protest against the government's latest moves on Sunni Arabs, including the demolition of a protest site and the arrest of a Sunni MP in the western Anbar province.

Xinhua reports that tThe MPs from the Sunni Motahidoon (United) Alliance also demanded the withdrawal of the army from cities in the Anbar province and the release of Ahmad al-Alwani, a Sunni lawmaker who was arrested on Saturday, the bloc's spokesman Dhafer al-Ani said at a televised press conference.

The announcement of their resignation came just hours after clashes broke out on Monday when Iraqi police dismantled an anti- government protest site outside Anbar's provincial capital city of Ramadi, police and medics said.

Hundreds of gunmen and angry demonstrators fought with the army and police forces in the cities of Ramadi, Fallujah and other areas in the province, a provincial police source said, adding that at least two tanks and several military vehicles were burned by the clashes.

A medical source from Ramadi hospital told Xinhua that at least ten people were killed and some 40 others wounded so far in the clashes, adding that the toll could rise as ambulances and all vehicles are not able to evacuate the casualties to hospitals due to the fierce clashes which blocked the roads.

In the morning, the state-run Iraqia channel said that "local police in cooperation with the provincial authorities in Anbar removed the tents from the protest site near Ramadi."

The move came after an agreement was reached between the security forces and the provincial officials, religious and tribal leaders, the channel said.

Tension has been running high in the Sunni heartland of Anbar after the Iraqi security forces captured the Sunni Arab tribal leader Ahmad al-Alwani and killed his brother. Al-Alwani is also a lawmaker in the Iraqi parliament.

The Sunnis have been carrying out a year-long protest, accusing the Shiite-led government of marginalizing them and its Shiite- dominated security forces of indiscriminately arresting, torturing and killing their sons.

Alwani is one of the outspoken leading figures in the anti- government protests. Some opponent lawmakers have been demanding to lift his immunity, but their demand was rejected by the parliament.