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Middle East

Sunni protests continue in Iraqi cities

Demonstrations triggered by arrest of bodyguards for finance minister intensify amid calls for release of prisoners.
Last Modified: 30 Dec 2012 22:31
The protesters have complained about marginalisation and are demanding the release of Sunni prisoners [Al Jazeera]

Sunni Muslims in Iraq are continuing their demonstrations against the Shia-led government, accusing the prime minister of marginalising non-Shia.

Thousands gathered on Sunday in Ramadi, 100km west of Baghdad, in Anbar Province, which has seen several days of protests.

The protests began last week with many demonstrators massing along a major highway near the city of Fallujah in the country's centre. 

Al Jazeera's Omar al-Saleh, reporting from Ramadi, said the protests had been triggered by the arrest 10 days ago of nine bodyguards for the finance minister, Rafia al-Issawi, in Baghdad. 

"They're not only protesting against the arrest of the bodyguards. They're also now protesting against the imprisonment of Sunnis," our correspondent said. "They say the Sunnis have been targeted by the Shia-led government."

"So they're demanding the release of female prisoners. They're demanding the release of male prisoners. And also they want an end to what they say is marginalisation and discrimination against Sunnis." 

Nouri al-Maliki, the Shia prime minister, has denied all the allegations of injustice.

The rallies appear to be the largest yet in a week of demonstrations, intensifying pressure on the government.

During Friday's protests in the northern city of Mosul, around 3,000 demonstrators took to the streets to denounce what they called the sidelining of Sunnis.

As in protests earlier in the week, demonstrators there chanted the Arab Spring slogan: "The people want the downfall of the regime."

Thousands also took to the streets in the northern Sunni towns of Tikrit and Samarra, where they were joined by legislators and provincial officials, said Salahuddin provincial spokesman Mohammed al-Asi.

Many Sunnis accuse Maliki of refusing to share power and depriving the religious minority of equal rights.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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