Iraqi Forces Fire Into Air as Anti-Maliki Demonstrations Spread [View all]
By Nayla Razzouk and Khalid Al-Ansary - Jan 4, 2013
Iraqi forces fired into the air to disperse protesters as demonstrations spread to eight regions demanding that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki share more power.
Thousands of protesters gathered in the capital, Baghdad, and Ramadi, Falluja, Tikrit, Mosul, Samarra, Kirkuk and Diyala, according to footage shown by Al Jazeera television. “The people want the downfall of the regime,” chanted a crowd in Mosul, echoing a slogan repeated in protests that led to the fall of the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya.
Maliki warned in a statement on his website that “foreign agendas” were trying to divide the country and stir sectarian infighting in Iraq, the second-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. One of his main opponents, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, called for Maliki’s resignation and early elections in a statement read by the local al-Sharqiya television station.
Violence and political clashes in Iraq have increased since the end of 2011 when the U.S. pulled out the last of the troops it deployed since the 2003 invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein. Allawi’s Sunni-backed al-Iraqiya coalition boycotted parliament and Cabinet sessions for several weeks last year to denounce what they say is a power grab by Maliki, a Shiite ally of neighboring Iran. Tensions have also run high between the Maliki government and Iraq’s Kurds, mainly focused on disputed land and control of the nation’s oil wealth.