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Iraq

Iraqi troops arrest Sunni lawmaker amid deadly gunfight

Iraqi security forces have killed at least five people while trying to arrest a Sunni Muslim lawmaker wanted on terrorism charges. The death is likely to fuel sectarian tensions in the country.

Iraqi security forces on Saturday arrested a Sunni Muslim member of parliament, Ahmed al-Alwani (pictured above), in the western city of Ramadi, and killed at least six people, including Alwani's brother Ali, amid a clash with his bodyguards, police said.

Police said Alwani's bodyguards and members of his tribe had opened fire on the police and army forces, unleashing an hour-long firefight.

Eighteen people, including 10 security forces members, were also wounded in the shooting, according to medical and police sources.

Some reports also spoke of a woman, reportedly Alwani's sister, being killed, but this has not been confirmed by other accounts.

Sunni protests

Iraqi authorities accuse al-Alwani, a member of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya opposition bloc, of involvement in terrorism. The lawmaker has been a leading figure in a Sunni protest movement based in the western province of Anbar.

Its members have been protesting since last December against what they see as unfair treatment at the hands of the Shiite majority and the Shiite-led government under Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Authorities in Anbar have accused the Sunni protest camps of sheltering members of the local al-Qaeda branch, thought to be behind a rising wave of insurgent attacks.

Saturday's killings are likely to aggravate the tensions already present in Iraq between minority Sunni Muslims, who led the country until 2003, when a US-led invasion ousted former Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, and Shiites, who have controlled Iraq since then.

Over the past year, sectarian violence has reached its worst levels since 2006-2007, when tens of thousands died in fighting between the two groups.

tj/jlw Reuters, AP)

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