World Bulletin / News Desk
Iraqi troops fired shots in the air to disperse Sunni Muslims rallying against Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Monday in another day of protests threatening to upset the fragile cross-sectarian government.
Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Sunni strongholds across Iraq for more than two weeks.
In the northern city of Mosul, Iraqi troops fired shots over hundreds of protesters trying to gather in a public square, and in the Sunni heartland province of Anbar, at least 5,000 more people took to the streets peacefully.
"Security forces opened fire and used batons to disperse demonstrators," said Atheel al-Nujaifi, governor of Nineveh province, which includes Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of the capital Baghdad.
He said one demonstrator had been hit by a security forces vehicle and others had been wounded. Ghanim al-Abid, a protest organizer in Mosul, told Reuters, that at least four people had been wounded by security forces.
Demonstrators have blocked a major highway leading through the remote Anbar desert to Syria's border since late December when Maliki's forces arrested bodyguards protecting Finance Minister Rafaie al-Esawi, a leading Sunni figure.
The bodyguard arrests touched off protests by tens of thousands of Sunnis who feel sidelined by Maliki.
The protests are increasing pressure on Maliki over Iraq's power-sharing deal amoung Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs.
Sunni demands range from fixing failing public services to amending anti-terror laws they say are abused to target their community. Maliki has made some concessions such as releasing some detainees, but protests continue daily.
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The protests were called to demonstrate against the government of President Joseph Kabila who many in Congo fear is manoeuvering to stay in office indefinitely beyond the end of his term in December.
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The hold up also threatens to torpedo next week's planned visit to Brussels by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to sign the deal.
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