Angry family members react as they receive the bodies of victims killed in Tuesday’s bombings in Hawijah north of Baghdad in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk before their burial, Wednesday. — AFP
BAGHDAD — A bloody two days of violence in Iraq left 118 people dead, with 99 of them killed in clashes and attacks involving security forces, protesters and their supporters, officials said Wednesday.
More than 240 people were wounded in the same period, most of them in protest-related unrest, which prompted two Sunni ministers to quit and has sent tensions in the country soaring.
The violence, which began with clashes at a protest site in northern Iraq after security forces moved in, is the deadliest so far linked to demonstrations in Sunni areas that erupted more than four months ago.
Protesters have called for the resignation of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and railed against the alleged targeting of their community by the authorities.
In the deadliest violence on Wednesday, five soldiers and seven gunmen were killed and 63 people, including 20 soldiers, wounded in fighting in the Sulaiman Bek area north of Baghdad, security officers and an official said.
Iraqi MP Ashwaq Al-Jaf said dozens of people were wounded in air attacks by the Iraqi military in the area, and a high-ranking army officer confirmed helicopters were used in the fighting.
In other violence that officers said was also apparently in revenge for Tuesday’s clashes, gunmen attacked a Sahwa anti-Al-Qaeda militia checkpoint in Khales northeast of Baghdad, killing four militiamen and wounding a fifth.
The initial fighting killed 53 people, while a series of revenge attacks left another 27 dead Tuesday, and 15 more were killed in apparently unrelated unrest.
Two Sunni ministers quit in the wake of the initial violence, bringing to four the number of Sunni cabinet members who have resigned since March 1. On Wednesday, mourners buried dozens of people killed the day before.
Hundreds of mourners walked on the main road past the provincial council building in Kirkuk city alongside vehicles carrying 34 coffins.
They chanted “We sacrifice for you, Iraq” and “We will take revenge for the martyrs of Hawijah,” continuing on to Hawijah, to the west of the city, where the dead were buried.
“What happened was a massacre, and the situation is catastrophic and dangerous, and we should work on easing the tension,” said Kirkuk Deputy Governor Rakan said. — AFP