99 injured in protests in Iraq's Kurdish region

April 18, 2011|By Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN

For the second day in row, a peaceful protest turned violent in northern Iraq on Monday, when hundreds of Kurdish protesters clashed with riot police, security officials in Sulaimaniya said.

Dr. Raykot Hama Rahid, the director of the health department in the city of Sulaimaniya, said that 99 people were wounded: 66 riot police and 33 protesters. Among the wounded were 16 protesters who were shot in the legs, he said.

Nearly 1,300 Kurdish demonstrators gathered in Sulaimaniya's central square on Monday afternoon to continue their demands for political reforms and to protest corruption, a lack of basic services and unemployment, witnesses said.

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Monday afternoon, the protest turned violent when hundreds of angry protesters tried to move the demonstrations to another location in the city and were confronted by dozens of Kurdish riot police, who stopped them from moving. Angry protesters threw stones at Kurdish riot police and wielded sticks when police pushed back. Riot police used tear gas, and some used live bullets to disperse the crowd, said security officials in Sulaimaniya.

The protesters also set and trash on fire and blocked some roads in the city, according to a journalist on the scene.

On Sunday, at least 50 people were wounded in similar violence, police and health officials in Sulaimaniya said. Nearly 400 Kurdish demonstrators gathered in Sulaimaniya's central square.

The unrest in the Kurdish city, starting February 17, has killed at least seven people and injured at least 350 people health officials said.

The minister of municipalities and tourism in the Kurdistan Regional Government, Samir Abdullah, said that ongoing demonstrations in central Sulaimnaiya and other locations are negatively affecting tourism and business in the Kurdish region. Abdullah said businessmen now are thinking twice about investing in Kurdistan.

The Kurdistan Region is considered to be the safest, most stable region in Iraq. Sulaimaniya, a city in the northern Iraqi region, is about 280 kilometers (174 miles) northeast of Baghdad. The three cities of the Kurdish region are Irbil, Duhok and Sulaimaniya. The Kurdistan regional government, headed by Massoud Barzani, is in Irbil province.

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