World Bulletin / News Desk
Chanting "No" to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, tens of thousands of Sunni Muslims protested after Friday prayers in huge rallies against the Shi'ite premier that are raising the spectre of renewed sectarian unrest.
Sunni Muslim outrage erupted in late December over what protesters see as abuses and discrimination against their minority sect since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the rise of the country's Shi'ite majority.
Waving the old three-star Iraqi flag from Saddam's era, Sunni clerics, tribal sheikhs and young protesters called for reform of anti-terrorism laws they say security forces abuse to target Sunnis and unfairly detain prisoners.
Maliki has offered concessions, and freed hundreds of prisoners. But Sunni protesters have grown more defiant after soldiers opened fire at a Falluja city rally, killing five people a week ago.
"We will never forget what the army did to us, not only last Friday, but all of their behaviour has been sectarian against us," Omar Al-Jumaili, 51, in Falluja city. "Our new demand; the Iraqi army should leave this area."
The protests are evolving in the most serious test yet for Maliki and his fragile government that splits posts among Shi'ite, Sunni and ethnic Kurds, who were already deadlocked over how to share power for more than a year.
Islamic State of Iraq, still active after years of losses against American soldiers, has also urged Sunni protesters to take up arms.
A year after the last American troops pulled out, sectarian tensions are still raw in the OPEC country, where Shi'ite on Sunni violence killed tens of thousands of people just a few years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Maliki has appointed a senior Shi'ite figure to talk to demonstrators about demands such as an amnesty law and easing of so-called de-Baathification campaign against former members of Saddam's outlawed Baath party.
Iraq's vice premier Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni, said a meeting on Friday with Maliki's Shi'ite National Alliance coalition and Sunni-backed Iraqiya had been positive on proposed reforms.
"We can say there was a progress in this meeting, which may be hasn't happened in the previous ones," he said.
The Sunni unrest broke out just as Baghdad is struggling also with a dispute with the autonomous Kurdistan region over oil and land rights. That has complicated Maliki's attempts to build alliances with Sunni and Kurdish leaders.
Assembly's ethics committee also announces intention to grill electoral commission over corruption allegations
Bakir Izetbegovic, the leader of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) in Bosnia, represents Bosniaks (Muslims) in the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina
Three people including a NATO representative have been killed in a missile facility explosion
At least 2 people have been injured in an attack in Nigeria
With many moments highlighting the four day convention, the most emotional of all was the speech of Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim soldier who was killed in Iraq
French PM Valls has said called for imams to be trained in France and that a ban should be in place for the foreign funding of mosques
Demonstrators decry deadly coup attempt in Turkey; demand Gulen's extradition
Boris Johnson insists relations are warm after French foreign minister had accused him earlier of having ‘lied a lot’
A draft resolution calling on all parties to cease all violence with the deployment of a UN police force in Burundi will be voted on today
Hillary Clinton has accepted the nomination for the Democrats saying that she would be 'president for Democrats, Republicans and independents'
German Chancellor says Ankara should prosecute coup plotters with all means and possibilities within rule of law
Dozen killings in last 2 months have largely targeted ruling African National Congress members
Gulen's terrorist organization FETO has extended networks in western Balkans since 1990s
With latest payment, company's financial assistance from European Commission totals more than €10 million