April 22, 2011
Mosul, Iraq - At least one protester was killed and 44 injured when security forces fired live ammunition to disperse hundreds of protesters gathered Friday to rally against the US presence in Iraq, according to medical sources.
Nabil al-Khayat, head of the Mosul general hospital, said he received the body of a 23-year-old man, who was shot in the head. At least 44 injured were hospitalized at the hospital including 13 tribal leaders, al-Khayat said.
'Many of those injured are in critical condition, due to severe bleeding. Also, the hospital did not receive medical supplies needed for them due to the curfew imposed in the city,' al-Khayat said.
Witnesses told the German Press Agency dpa earlier that Iraqi police and military forces fired shots in the air to disperse around 2,000 protesters before they reached al-Ahrar square in Mosul, where they planned to hold their protest.
Riot police set up security barriers across the city, some 400 kilometres north of Baghdad.
Iraqis have held a series of protests over the last two weeks in al-Ahrar square in opposition to suggestions that US troops might stay beyond their scheduled departure at the end of 2011.
Iraqi security forces cited a security threat and on Thursday had announced an all-day curfew for Friday in Mosul, ahead of the planned rally.
Amid tight security in Baghdad, hundreds of protesters gathered Friday in the capital, demanding better public services, protesting unemployment and corruption and calling for the release of prisoners jailed for long periods without being charged.
Although both Iraqi and US officials have said in the past that a continued US presence was necessary for Iraq's national defence, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki recently told a visiting US official that Iraqi forces were 'ready and capable' to protect the country.
During a visit earlier this month, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the US was 'willing to have a presence' in Iraq beyond the scheduled withdrawal, if requested by the Iraqi government.
'Should the Iraqi government desire to discuss the potential for some US troops to stay, I am certain my government will welcome that dialogue,' Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday at a US military base outside Baghdad.
Iraq's government must decide within weeks whether it wants any US troops to remain beyond the end of the year, the top US military officer has said, noting that the two governments had not held official talks on extending the deployment.
Less than 50,000 US troops remain in Iraq. The majority of US forces withdrew from the country in August.