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 Teenage protester killed, 39 hurt in fresh clashes in Iraq's Kurdistan

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Teenage protester killed, 48 hurt in fresh clashes in Iraq's Kurdistan  21.2.2011  

February 21, 2011

SULAIMANIYAH, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — A teenage boy was killed and 48 people were wounded Sunday evening when hundreds of demonstrators clashed with Kurdish security forces in Sulaimaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan, officials said.

The death of 17-year-old Serkho Mohammed on Sunday evening was the third fatality during protests in the autonomous region of Kurdistan, where thousands have hit the streets to rail against corruption in the city of Sulaimaniyah.

Most of the demonstrators opposed Massoud Barzani, Kurdistan regional president, and the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party.

Witnesses said that dozens of angry demonstrators threw stones at the Kurdish security forces who were trying to disperse them using water cannons.

Eleven of the demonstrators were wounded when the security forces opened fire, said Dr. Hawar Hassan, director of Sulaimaniyah's emergency police. The teenager, a 17-year-old boy, died from wounds he suffered in the shooting.

In Sulaimaniyah on Sunday, 1,500 protesters had attempted to march to Salem street in the centre of the city, the site of violent demonstrations that left two young men dead and 54 wounded on Thursday.

On Saturday, clashes between police and protesters in Sulaimaniyah injured 14 people, according to a regional health official.                  

Iraqi Kurdish anti-government protesters march in the city of Sulaimaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan region. Protesters shouted "Down, down with Massoud Barzani" February 20, 2011. Photo: Getty Images.

Kurdish anti-government protesters stand on Massoud Barzani and Jalal Tablani's photos.

Saturday's protesters shouted "Down, down with Massoud Barzani" in a demonstration that began at 11:30 a.m. and lasted several hours.

The violence followed another demonstration by hundreds of students at Sulaimaniyah University seeking the release of people arrested in previous protests and the prosecution of a local party official they said ordered security forces to open fire.

On Thursday, Barzani issued a statement saying the protests were the work of a "very small group of people determined to undermine the stability of the region."

Mohammed, the lone fatality, suffered two gunshots to his abdomen after Kurdish security forces fired into the air in a bid to disperse the crowd, Sulaimaniyah provincial health chief Raykot Hama Rashid said.

Rashid said 48 others were injured, including eight who were hit by bullets.

The demonstrators had been attempting to move toward the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Sulaimaniyah.

The KDP, led by Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani, and the PUK, led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, have for decades lorded over Kurdistan.

The rallies have focused on widespread corruption, high unemployment and poor basic services such as electricity and water provision.

Massoud Barzani and his relatives control a large number of commercial enterprises in Kurdistan-Iraq, with a gross value of several billion US dollars. The family is routinely accused of corruption and nepotism by Kurdish media as well as international observers.

The regional government is organizing a meeting between government leaders and representatives of opposition groups scheduled for Monday, according to the statement.  

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