Iraq frees prisoners in gesture to end Sunni protests

Updated 14 January 2013
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Iraq frees prisoners in gesture to end Sunni protests

BAGHDAD: The Iraqi government released more than 300 prisoners held under anti-terrorism laws on Monday as a goodwill gesture to Sunni demonstrators staging protests against Shiite Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki.
Three weeks of demonstrations, mainly in Sunni-dominated Anbar province, have evolved into a tough challenge for the Shiite premier, increasing worries that Iraq risks sliding back into the sectarian confrontation of its recent past.
As one condition, Sunni leaders had demanded the release of detainees held under anti-terrorism law many believe authorities use unfairly to target their minority sect.
A committee reviewing cases freed 335 detainees whose jail terms had already finished or whose cases were dismissed because of a lack of evidence.
“In name of the Iraqi State, I apologize to those who were arrested and jailed and were later proven to be innocent,” said Deputy Prime Minister Hussein Al-Shahristani, a senior Iraqi Shiite figure heading the committee.
Thousands of protesters are still camped out in Anbar, once the home of Al-Qaeda’s campaign against US troops in Iraq, where they have blocked a major route to Jordan and Syria near the Sunni heartland city of Ramadi.
Detainee releases were just one condition from protesters. Other demands range from the more radical calls for Maliki to step down, to the end of a campaign to track down former members of Saddam Hussein’s outlawed Baath party.
Since the fall of strongman Saddam in 2003, many Iraqi Sunnis feel they have been sidelined by the country’s Shiite majority. The country’s government, split among Shiite, Sunni and ethnic Kurds, is deadlocked over how to share power.


Houthi land mines threaten Yemeni lives every day: Reports

Updated 9 min 11 sec ago
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Houthi land mines threaten Yemeni lives every day: Reports

RIYADH: Landmines by Houthi militias have caused many civilian casualties on a daily basis in area across Yemen, where the Iranian backed militants have been defeated, according to a report from SPA.
Reports say that Yemen became has one of the largest land mine battlefields in the world since the Second World War, with more than half-a-million mines planted by the Houhtis across several Yemeni cities.
This vast amount of land mines continues to pose a very dangerous threat to the lives of Yemeni civilians, as the Houthi militias insist on laying internationally-banned land mines randomly in liberated regions and near residential areas, according to reports.
Minelaying by Houthis has come in different forms, according to the Saudi Pres Agency, with some being hand-produced in the form of rocks in mountainous areas and sand blocks, in addition to commonly used mines.
Houthi militias arbitrarily plant mines and explosive devices in residential areas, roads and farms in liberated regions, without respecting that it is threatening civilians who are outside the battle field.
Human Rights organizations said more than half a million land mines were planted in different regions of Yemen, including Internationally banned land mines which led to the death of hundreds of civilians and caused permanent disabilities for thousands of others.