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Babylon & Beyond

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Israel, the Arab world and beyond

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IRAQ: Nationwide protests against corruption and poverty ignite sporadic violence

Thousands of Iraqis converged on local government headquarters across the country Friday in a coordinated nationwide "day of rage" against corruption and persistent economic ills.

At least nine people were reported killed in clashes set off by the massive protests that led to curfews being imposed in major cities from Basra in the south to Kurdish strongholds in the north.

Police fired on demonstrators trying to raid a government building in Tikrit, killing two and injuring nine, after failing to drive back the attack with a water cannon.

In Fallouja, gunmen killed six members of a local leader's family overnight, intensifying the rioting that destroyed buildings and injured at least nine protesters later in the day. Another protester was reported killed in Basra.

Protesters burned three police stations in the northern city of Hawija, and 6,000 gathered in the Kurdish stronghold of Sulaymaniyah to vent dismay over the state of economic and political affairs in the country.

Police contained most of the violence in the capital, Baghdad, by blocking protesters from crossing a bridge into the city center.

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki ordered the resignations of provincial governors in Basra, Nasiriya and Baghdad after the daylong unrest, the most extensive in Iraq since a wave of anti-government protests began sweeping the Middle East last autumn.

-- Carol J. Williams

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