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Iraq minister quits in protest as clashes in north leave 40 dead

KIRKUK: Deadly fighting hit Kirkuk province in north Iraq yesterday, with 27 people killed in clashes between protesters and security forces while 13 gunmen died in revenge attacks on the army.
Education Minister Mohammed Ali Tamim, a Sunni from Hawijah near where the clashes took place, resigned in the wake of the violence, becoming the third Sunni minister to do so since March.
The fighting was the deadliest to date linked to protests in Sunni areas that erupted more than four months ago.
The violence broke out around 5 a.m. when security forces entered an open area near Hawijah, west of Kirkuk province’s eponymous capital, where demonstrations have been held since January, according to senior army officers, who gave an overall toll of 27 people killed and around 70 wounded.
Two soldiers were killed and seven wounded in the operation, while the remainder of the casualties were a combination of protesters and militants, the officers said.
Protesters insisted the army had provoked the clashes.
Security forces “invaded our sit-in today, burned the tents and opened fire indiscriminately and killed and wounded dozens of protesters,” Abdulmalik Al-Juburi, a leader of the Hawijah sit-in, said.

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