Iraqi Sunnis stage big anti-government rallies

By REUTERS
December 28, 2012 15:03

 
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RAMADI, Iraq - Tens of thousands of protesters from Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority poured onto the streets after Friday prayers in a show of force against Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, keeping up a week-old blockade of a highway.

Around 60,000 people blocked the main road through the city of Falluja, 50 km (32 miles) west of the capital, setting fire to the Iranian flag and shouting "out, out Iran! Baghdad stays free" and "Maliki you coward, don't take your advice from Iran".

Many Sunnis, whose community dominated Iraq until the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, accuse Maliki of refusing to share power and of favoring Shi'ite, non-Arab neighbor Iran.

Protests flared last week after troops loyal to Maliki, who is from the Shi'ite majority, detained bodyguards of his finance minister, a Sunni.

Activists demands include an end to the marginalization of Sunnis, the abolition of anti-terrorism laws they say are used to target them, and the release of detainees.

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