Massive Iraq rallies say ‘no’ to Al-Maliki

Updated 03 February 2013
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Massive Iraq rallies say ‘no’ to Al-Maliki

FALLUJAH: Chanting “No” to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, tens of thousands of Sunnis protested after Friday prayers in huge rallies against the Shiite premier that are raising the specter of renewed sectarian unrest.
Sunni outrage erupted in late December over what protesters see as abuses and discrimination against their minority sect since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the rise of the country’s Shiite majority.
Waving the old three-star Iraqi flag from Saddam’s era, Sunni clerics, tribal sheikhs and young protesters called for reform of anti-terrorism laws they say security forces abuse to target Sunnis and unfairly detain prisoners.
Al-Maliki has offered concessions, and freed hundreds of prisoners. But Sunni protesters have grown more defiant after soldiers opened fire at a Fallujah city rally, killing five people a week ago.
“We will never forget what the army did to us, not only last Friday, but all of their behavior has been sectarian against us,” Omar Al-Jumaili, 51, in Fallujah city. “Our new demand; the Iraqi army should leave this area.”
Sunni ranks are already split among moderates and hard-liners who are threatening Iraq’s unity with a more radical demand for an autonomous Sunni fiefdom in western Iraq along the border with Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
The protests are evolving in the most serious test yet for Al-Maliki and his fragile government that splits posts among Shiite, Sunni and ethnic Kurds, who were already deadlocked over how to share power for more than a year.
Iraq’s Al-Qaeda affiliate, Islamic State of Iraq, still active after years of losses against American and Iraqi soldiers, has also urged Sunni protesters to take up arms though moderate leaders reject the incitement to violence.
Al-Maliki has appointed a senior Shiite figure to talk to demonstrators about demands such as an amnesty law and easing of so-called de-Baathification campaign against former members of Saddam’s outlawed Baath party.
Iraq’s vice premier Saleh Al-Mutlaq, a Sunni, said a meeting yesterday with Al-Maliki’s Shiite National Alliance coalition and Sunni-backed Iraqiya had been positive on proposed reforms.
“We can say there was a progress in this meeting, which may be hasn’t happened in the previous ones,” he said.


Yemeni forces push further into Houthi-held territory in Hodeidah

Updated 33 min 59 sec ago
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Yemeni forces push further into Houthi-held territory in Hodeidah

  • Backed by resistance forces, the army liberated al-Zaraniq Camp and the surrounding areas in the district of Durayhi in Hudeidah from Houthi militia
  • There were a number of children captured, who were fighting for the Houthi militia suffering from starvation and thirst

DUBAI: Yemen forces backed by the Saudi-led Arab coalition made major advances into Houthi-held areas in Hodiedah over the last week the national army reported.

Backed by resistance forces, the army liberated al-Zaraniq Camp and the surrounding areas in the district of Durayhi in Hudeidah from Houthi militia.

There were a number of children captured, who were fighting for the Houthi militia suffering from starvation and thirst.

Local reports suggested that the army was less than 20km away from the densely populated city of Hodiedah, however Arab News cannot independently confirm this.

Abdulmalek al-Houthi, leader of the Iran-backed militia, reportedly tried to assure his followers that the losses in Hodeidah around the west coast are small.

The spokesperson for Yemen’s army, Sadeq Dawaid, told Sky News Arabia that after liberating Houthi areas, the army was then faced with heavily mined land which it had to clear.  

“Houthis have an obsession with planting landmines, they do it randomly often injuring and killing their own forces in the process,” Dawaid said.

“The landmines they plant also injure local residents,” he added.

Teams were formed to de-activate the thousands of landmines around Hodeidah.

According to army officials in Yemen, the country has been subjected to the “largest mine-laying operation since the end of the Second World War.”

The total number of mines laid by the militia exceeds half a million mines, and that this “huge amount continues to pose a sustainable threat to the lives of civilians.”

International human rights groups have previously condemned Iran-backed Houthi militias for their use of the banned antipersonnel landmines in Yemen that have caused numerous civilian casualties and hindered the safe return of people to displaced by fighting.