Seven killed in Iraqi ''Day of Rage'' demos

Baghdad, Feb 25 (AFP) Protesters took to the streetsacross Iraq today to mark a "Day of Rage", with thousandsflooding Baghdad''s Tahrir Square as seven protesters died inclashes with police in two northern cities.

Protesters in the capital were forced to walk to therally site as security forces imposed a vehicle ban, a dayafter Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki claimed the demonstrationswere being organised by Al-Qaeda insurgents and loyalists ofdeposed dictator Saddam Hussein.

Though most of the protests were largely peaceful,clashes between security forces and demonstrators at ralliesin the northern city of Mosul and the town of Hawija leftseven dead and dozens wounded, while separate rallies in northand west Iraq left a total of eight others injured.

In the capital, troops and police were deployed inforce at Tahrir Square, where around 5,000 demonstrators hadgathered, and security forces erected concrete blast walls toblock entrance to Jumhuriyah bridge, which connects thedemonstration site to Baghdad''s heavily-fortified Green Zone.

Protesters nevertheless managed to overturn two of thewalls, with some of them attempting to cross the bridge.

Several lines of anti-riot police quickly blocked it off,however.

An Iraqi MP Sabah al-Saadi attempted to meet with agroup of the demonstrators but was met with shouts and jeersupon his arrival, with one protesters asking, "Why are MPstaking millions of dinars (thousands of dollars) in salary?""You have to cut your salary -- we have nothing! Whyare you taking so much money when we have no money?"Today''s rally, in keeping with similar protests acrossthe region, has largely been organised on social networkingwebsite Facebook by groups such as "Iraqi Revolution of Rage"and "Change, Liberty and a Real Democracy."Most of the protesters at the square, which shares thename of the central Cairo site where Egyptians rallied tooverthrow president Hosni Mubarak, were young men, with someholding placards that read, "No silence, we must speak".

"We don''t want to change the government, because weelected them, but we want them to get to work!" said DarghanAdnan, a 24-year-old student at the capital''s Tahrir Square.

"We want them to enforce justice, we want them to fixthe roads, we want them to fix the electricity, we want themto fix the water."More protesters were streaming into the area on thebanks of the Tigris river, forced to walk after authoritiesbelatedly imposed a vehicle ban on Baghdad and several otherIraqi cities.

"I came by foot from Sadr City (east Baghdad) -- ittook me two hours, but I decided to come because I want thegovernment to change the situation," said Shashef Shenshun, 48years old and unemployed. (AFP)

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