Last updated: 18 May, 2013

Gunmen mass at Iraqi security command headquarters

Hundreds of gunmen gathered near the headquarters of a provincial security command in Iraq on Saturday, while others ambushed a patrol and kidnapped 10 security force personnel, police said.

Security forces attempted to arrest Mohammed Khamis Abu Risha, who is wanted in connection with the killing of five soldiers, near Ramadi to the west of Baghdad, sparking clashes with armed tribesmen in which two of them were killed, a police captain said.

Mohammed Khamis, the nephew of power tribal sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, who is a key supporter of Sunni anti-government protesters in Anbar province and also led the uprising against Al-Qaeda in the province from 2007, confirmed that two members of his tribe were killed.

Hundreds of gunmen then began to gather near the main entrance to the Anbar Operations Command headquarters north of Ramadi, the captain said.

In another incident in the Ramadi area, gunmen ambushed a patrol and kidnapped 10 security force personnel near the city, police Lieutenant Colonel Naif al-Shlaybawi said.

The area is one of the main centres of the Sunni protest movement in Iraq, which began almost five months ago.

Demonstrators from Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority accuse authorities of marginalising and targeting their community, including through wrongful detentions and accusations of involvement in terrorism.

While the government has made some concessions, such as freeing prisoners and raising the salaries of Sunni anti-Al-Qaeda fighters, underlying issues have not been addressed.

On April 23, security forces moved on Sunni protesters near the northern town of Hawijah, sparking clashes that killed 53 people.

Dozens more died in subsequent unrest that included revenge attacks on security forces, raising fears of a return to the all-out sectarian conflict that ravaged Iraq from 2006 to 2008.