Middle East

Iraq troops kill five protesters during Fallujah clash

Wounded protester is carried during clashes with security forces in Fallujah, on 25/1/13
Image caption The protest in Fallujah was one of several held across Anbar on Friday

Iraqi soldiers have opened fire on protesters in the city of Fallujah, killing at least five and wounding 60.

The clashes erupted after the soldiers prevented people joining an anti-government demonstration in the mainly Sunni city after Friday prayers.

It is the first such confrontation with the army since huge protests against the Shia-led government began five weeks ago in Baghdad and western Iraq.

The protesters accuse the government of discrimination against Sunni Arabs.

They say they are second-class citizens in the country, and have called for the resignation of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a Shia Arab.

'Foreign agendas'

Friday's violence in Fallujah broke out after after army units in the west of the city blocked off protesters who were heading towards the main demonstration.

The protesters retaliated by throwing bottles of water and stones at the troops, who then opened fire.

It was not immediately clear whether the soldiers fired directly into the crowd or into the air, the BBC's Ahmed Maher reports from Baghdad.

The demonstration in Fallujah was one of several held in other parts of the mainly Sunni Arab province of Anbar after Friday prayers.

The anti-government protests began in mid-December shortly after the arrest of several bodyguards of the Finance Minister Rafie al-Issawi, the most high-profile Sunni Arab in the cabinet.

But the campaign against Mr Maliki has since broadened.

Sunnis believe they are disadvantaged when trying to find work, that the laws are unequally applied and that the government is in the sway of Shia Iran.

The prime minister has urged both the security forces and demonstrators to show restraint, warning of "foreign agendas" seeking to push Iraq towards sectarian conflict.