Hundreds of anti-government protesters have blocked the main highway leading to the the Iraqi city of Fallujah, a day after at least five people were killed in troops firing.
The protesters gathered in central Fallujah on Saturday for the funeral of those killed in the shooting. Mourners hoisted caskets and waved Iraqi flags while shouting “Allahu Akbar”! or God is great.
At the protest, the latest in a series of demonstrations against the government of Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, shouts of “Listen Maliki, we are free people” were followed by “Take your lesson from Bashar,” a reference to Bashar al-Assad, president of Syria.
The blocking of the highway, which runs to neighbouring Jordan, led to the deployment of federal police. The police presence comes as a bid by the ministry of defence to defuse the situation.
Al Jazeera’s Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said the protests were only the latest in “a tense situation” around the country.
Friday’s deaths in the predominantly Sunni town of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, were the first since protests began last month against alleged targeting of the Sunni minority community by the Shia-led authorities.
Iraqi PM calls for restraint
“I will not be satisfied with compensation provided by the defence ministry,” said Ali Khalaf al-Ani, whose son Omar was killed on Friday, referring to an offer for financial compensation by Baghdad.
“I want my son alive — that is my demand!”
Maliki called for restraint by security forces in a statement issued by his office, but also said that soldiers had been attacked in the first place.
“This is what al-Qaeda and terrorist groups are seeking to exploit,” he said.
He also blamed “conspiracies” propagated by the intelligence agencies of neighbouring countries, supporters of now-executed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, and al-Qaeda.
The defence ministry has promised an investigation into the killings.
Our correspondent said “The sunni minority who used to have great positions of power say … they now feel they have no role in the future of Iraq”.