The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Breaking News

April 23, 2013

Clashes at Sunni protest site in Iraq kill 23

(Continued)

BAGHDAD —

Security forces detained 75 people and seized multiple weapons, including machine guns, hand grenades, knives, daggers and swords, the ministry said.

A United Nations spokeswoman in Iraq, Eliana Nabaa, urged both sides to avoid further violence.

"Stop immediately the use of weapons," she said.

Protests against the Shiite-dominated government began in western Iraq in December following the arrest of bodyguards assigned to Sunni Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi. The rallies quickly spread to other areas that are home to Iraq's minority Sunni Arabs, including Hawijah.

Demonstrators are protesting alleged discrimination by the government, including the application of a tough anti-terrorism law that they believe unfairly targets their sect.

The protests have been largely peaceful, though there have been occasional incidents of violence. In January, at least five protesters were killed in clashes with security forces in Fallujah, west of Baghdad.

Calls went out Tuesday through mosque loudspeakers in Fallujah, urging residents to protest along a major highway to show solidarity with the people of Hawijah.

After the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the Hawijah was considered one of the most dangerous areas for both American and Iraqi forces. They frequently faced deadly attacks by different groups of Sunni militants, particularly al-Qaida's Iraq arm.

Like in other Sunni towns, Hawijah residents accuse the Shiite-led governments in Baghdad of neglecting them and practicing sectarian agenda. They also oppose the Kurds' ambitions to annex nearby Kirkuk to their three-province autonomous region.

Also Tuesday, two bombs went off near a Sunni mosque in the southern Bagdad neighborhood of Dora, killing five worshipers and wounding 21, police and health officials said. The worshippers were leaving the mosque after morning prayers at around 5 a.m. when the bombs exploded simultaneously, two police officers said.

A medical official confirmed the causality figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

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