Iraq PM sends police to "dismantle" Anbar protest site, says "headquarters for Al Qaeda"
Iraqi police were directed by authorities Monday to "dismantle" Iraq's main anti-government protest site in Anbar province that Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki has called the "headquarters for Al Qaeda [leadership]," according to Agence France-Presse.
Iraqiya state TV reported that “local police are removing the tents from the protest site in Anbar” province. The station also released a text alert saying that the tent removal was a result of an agreement among security forces, religious leaders, and tribal sheikhs.
The protest site became infamous last year after Iraqi forces arrested guards of the former finance minister and influential Sunni Arab politician, Rafi Al Essawi, on charges related to terrorism. The arrests sparked tensions between the Shiite-led government and Sunnis living in the country.
Maliki, a Shiite himself, has described the present-day protest site near the city of Ramadi as "a headquarters for Al Qaeda" and has called on demonstrators to leave immediately.
“I say clearly and honestly that the sit-in site in Anbar has turned into a headquarters for the leadership of al-Qaeda,” said Maliki during a television interview.
Maliki told unaffiliated Al Qaeda protestors that they have a "very short period" to leave the camp before the Shiite-led government's authorities "dismantled" the area.
It is likely that the dismantling of the camp will continue to stir sectarian tensions throughout the country in what has been one of Iraq's bloodiest years yet.