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.
28 ISIL militants were killed in airstrikes, including an assistant of ISIL leader
Over 20 Palestinians have been arrested since October as they tried to cross from Gaza into Israel to search for jobs, according to Palestinian rights groups.
Former NATO General Secretary has for the first time, voiced words over the division of Syria.
Activist Shadi Khasrouf was kidnapped by Houthi militants near a military zone in Sanaa and transferred to an undisclosed location
With Israel's continuous bombardment with agricultural land, fisherman, Hamas says that they are tampering with the cease-fire agreement.
The call came in a letter by Putin, himself a former KGB agent, to veterans and current operatives of Russia's security services on the day Moscow traditionally honours them.
"Now that the U.S. hostile policy with an aim to invade our republic under the guise of human rights has become apparent, the idea of denuclearising the Korean peninsula itself is no longer valid," the North's foreign ministry spokesman said
The national broadcaster NHK said there was no tsunami warning, and there were no immediate reports of casualties or serious damage.
Egypt closed the Rafah border crossing, Gaza's only access to the outside world that is not controlled by Israel, on October 24 following an attack on a military site in the Sinai Peninsula
Peter Hahn detained on charges of embezzlement and fraud
Air strikes that killed militants are seen as response to Tuesday's deadly school siege in Peshawar that killed more than 140 people
Barry Spurr's messages referred to aboriginal Australians as 'abos' and Muslims as 'mussies'
Bomb explosion occurred in Bani Jamra, a Shi'ite village northwest of the capital Manama and was described by the interior ministry as a "terrorist blast" in a statement
New sanctions aimed at putting pressure on Russia’s economy over Ukraine crisis, come on the heels of US and EU sanctions
Israel gunboats have opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats of the north coast of Gaza with some damage sustained during the shooting.
The National Islamic Committee for Social Solidarity was drawn up nearly one year ago with the aim of providing humanitarian assistance to the embattled Gaza Strip.