Iraqi Sunnis mourn protesters shot dead by troops

Sat Jan 26, 2013 3:54pm EST
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By Kamal Naama

FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - Thousands of mourners rallied on Saturday at funerals for Sunni Muslims shot by troops in demonstrations against Iraq's Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Troops on Friday shot dead five people in Falluja, in the Sunni-dominated western province of Anbar.

Sunnis have taken to the streets since December to protest what they call mistreatment of their minority sect, heightening fears Iraq may return to the Shi'ite-Sunni bloodletting that killed tens of thousands in 2006-2007.

The Sunni protests have been accompanied by an increase in attacks by Islamist insurgents and the Iraqi wing of al Qaeda. Four suicide bombers have struck over the last week, including one who killed a Sunni lawmaker in Falluja.

Falluja's streets filled with thousands, many taking turns to carry the coffins of slain protesters. Others waved portraits of victims or the national flag used in Saddam Hussein's era, before the U.S.-led invasion ousted the Sunni strongman.

The funerals took place as the country's parliament passed a law imposing term limits on the prime minister's post in an attempt to block Maliki's re-election, although the legislation faces legal challenges in a top court.

Iraqi authorities have tried to calm anger over the shootings by withdrawing soldiers from the city and replacing them with federal police, but protesters want more concessions.

"Withdrawing the army from the city is not enough, I do not know how this will benefit me and it won't get my brother back," said Mustafa Jamal, a relative of a slain protester.   Continued...

Residents carry a coffin during the funeral of a victim killed in clashes with security forces in Falluja, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, January 26, 2013. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani