Iraq calls for end to ‘illegitimate’ rallies

Iraq calls for end to ‘illegitimate’ rallies

BAGHDAD - Agence France-Presse
Iraq calls for end to ‘illegitimate’ rallies

Shiites march along the highway that links Baghdad with Karbala. AP photo

The Iraqi authorities yesterday called for an end to what a senior official said were illegal and illegitimate protest rallies in Sunni provinces that have cut key trade routes.

The remarks released by the office of Ali al-Alaak, Cabinet secretary general, came as protests blocking a key highway linking Iraq to Syria and Jordan entered a ninth day and authorities north of Baghdad declared general strikes.

The protests were sparked by the arrest on Dec. 20 of at least nine of Finance Minister Rafa al-Essawi’s guards, and have spurred allegations that the Shiite-led government uses anti-terror legislation to target Sunnis.

“What is happening now... is breaking the law and the constitution,” said the statement. The statement came soon after a wave of bombings and shootings killed 12 people. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks in eight towns and cities that also wounded more than 40.

In the deadliest attack, seven people were killed when three houses were blown up in the town of Mussayib south of Baghdad. Four others were wounded.