IRAQ: At least two protesters dead
Kurdish security guards opened fire Thursday on a crowd of protesters calling for political reforms in northern Iraq, killing at least two, officials told the Associated Press.
The demonstration in Sulaimaniyah was the most violent in a wave of protests that extended to the southern cities of Kut, Nasir and Basra. Iraq has seen small-scale demonstrations almost daily in recent weeks, mainly centered in the impoverished southern provinces and staged by Iraqis angry over a lack of basic services such as electricity and clean drinking water.
The protesters moved to the headquarters of Kurdish President Massoud Barzani's political party, where some demonstrators threw stones at the building. Kurdish security guards on the roof then opened fire, sending people fleeing for cover, the Associated Press reported.
A local police official and a hospital official who spoke on condition of anonymity said two people were killed, and the medical official said 47 people were injured, according to the Associated Press. Both said the deaths and injuries were the result of shootings.
An Associated Press reporter saw one teenager shot in the head being carried away by policemen.
In the southern city of Basra, about 600 people also gathered in front of the provincial headquarters Thursday, facing off against police protecting the building, the Associated Press reported, although witnesses said the protest remained largely peaceful.
"We are demanding that the Basra governor be fired because he has not done anything good for Basra," Mohammed Ali Jasim, a 50-year-old father of nine at the protest in Iraq's second-largest city, told the Associated Press.
Dozens of angry protesters also stormed the municipal building and set it on fire in the small town of Nasir, 170 miles south of Baghdad, a police official in the provincial capital of Nasiriyah told the Associated Press. Five policemen were wounded after protesters hurled stones at the building and five protesters were arrested before a curfew was imposed, the officer said.
Demonstrators in the southern city of Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, gathered in front of the governor's office for a second day Thursday, demanding his resignation over corruption allegations, according to the Associated Press.
The Associated Press reported that the demonstrators decorated a donkey with a sign reading "governor" and hit the animal with their shoes — a serious insult in the Arab world.
In Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, more than 100 widows and orphans demonstrated near the governor's office, according to the Associated Press, demanding aid.
Prime Minister Nouri Maliki told the AP that policemen should not use force against protesters and said many of their demands were legitimate. But he said 20 people involved in the protests had been arrested and that rioters would not be tolerated.
Maliki accused remnants of the outlawed Baath Party, insurgents and candidates who failed in last year's elections with fueling the riots but provided no proof, according to the Associated Press.
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske
Top photo: An Iraqi Kurdish protester lies on the ground during an anti-government protest in Sulaimaniyah, Iraq, on Thursday where at least two people were killed after security forces fired to disperse protesters. Credit: Shwan Mohammed / AFP/Getty Images
Bottom photo: Protesters chant anti-government slogans around a donkey decorated with a sign reading "governor" in Kut, Iraq, Thursday. Credit: Hadi Mizban / Associated Press