independent

Friday 18 April 2014

28 killed in clashes across Iraq

Recent unrest has raised fears of more all-out sectarian violence

Clashes have erupted between the Iraqi army and armed Sunni tribesmen who sealed off a central Iraqi town, leaving nearly two dozen dead in an outbreak of violence that killed 28 people around the country.

The fighting came a day after security forces stormed a Sunni protest camp in the town of Hawija, sparking deadly clashes and a spate of other attacks, mostly targeting Sunni mosques, that killed at least 56 people.

The unrest is heightening Sunni-Shiite tensions and raising fears that the country could be headed toward a new round of all-out sectarian violence.

Wednesday's fighting broke out after tribesmen blocked roads leading to the Sunni town of Qara Tappah, about 75 miles (120km) north east of Baghdad. Iraqi troops arrived to try to clear the city. Fierce clashes erupted, and helicopters fired at the gunmen. Police say 15 gunmen and seven soldiers were killed.

In other violence, three gunmen were killed when they attacked a security checkpoint near the former al Qaida stronghold of Mosul, about 225 miles (360km) north west of Baghdad. Later, a car bomb struck a police patrol north of Baghdad, killing a policeman and two civilians, according to police.

Hospital officials confirmed the casualty figures.

Tuesday's raid in Hawija drew harsh condemnations from Sunni leaders and foreign diplomats, raising fears that Iraq is being pushed back toward all-out sectarian fighting like the underlying conflicts in the civil war in neighbouring Syria.

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday urged Iraqi authorities to ensure that any investigation into the Hawija killings takes into account allegations that security forces used excessive force. The rights group noted that there have been reports that security forces attacked demonstrators without provocation.

Iraq's Defence Ministry said it entered the protest area to try to make arrests over an attack on a nearby checkpoint several days earlier, and its forces came under heavy fire from several types of weapons, as well as snipers.

Tuesday's bloodshed followed four months of largely peaceful protests staged by Iraq's Sunni minority against the Shiite-led government. Iraqi Sunnis say they face discrimination, particularly in the application of a tough anti-terrorism law that they believe unfairly targets them.

Press Association

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