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Iraq

Iraqi troops killed, kidnapped in apparent revenge attack

Gunmen in Iraq have killed two soldiers and snatched three, seemingly in a revenge attack after troops killed seven protesters on Friday. Meanwhile, politicians passed a bill barring the prime minister from another term.

Masked Sunni protesters take part in an anti-government demonstration in Ramadi city, western Iraq

Irak Sunniten Demonstration

Gunmen attacked checkpoints around the city of Fallujah, killing two soldiers, wounding one and kidnapping three, according to police Colonel Mahmud Khalaf.

No organization immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, which came a day after Iraqi troops opened fire on demonstrators in Fallujah, killing seven. Nearly 60 protesters were wounded.

"We are conducting a search operation for them now," army Lieutenant General Ali Ghaidan Majeed said.

Militant Sunni factions, including an al Qaeda front group, often attack security forces to push Iraq back towards the sectarian war that blighted it from 2005 to 2008.

Bottles of water

Friday's procession had been blocked by soldiers, who opened fire after protesters threw bottles of water at them. The Defense Ministry promised an investigation and handed over security in Fallujah to police.

On Saturday, thousands attended the funerals, carrying the coffins of the victims. At least one was draped in a flag dating back to the rule of now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein, while protesters voiced their disapproval of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

A demonstration followed the burials during which some shouted: "Listen Maliki, we are free people" and "Take your lesson from Bashar," a reference to Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose country is in the grip of a 22-month uprising.

Calls for restraint

Maliki called for restraint by security forces in a statement, but said the soldiers had been attacked first in Friday's incident. The prime minister also blamed "conspiracies" by foreign intelligence agencies and supporters of Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

"This is what al Qaeda and terrorist groups are seeking to exploit," he said of the apparent sectarian tensions.

Parliament on Saturday passed a motion to bar Maliki from a third term in office, a bill the prime minister's allies dismiss as unconstitutional. Lawmakers from Sunni, Kurdish and Shiite blocs that are members of Maliki's unity government voted to limit presidents, prime ministers and parliamentary speakers to two terms. Maliki's supporters say the courts will overturn the measure.

mkg/msh (AFP, AP, dpa)