At least 26 people have been killed in clashes between security forces and Sunni protestors near the northern Iraqi city Kirkuk.
The gun battle erupted after the protest camp was stormed by government troops and threatens to destabilise sectarian relations in the country further.
The country experienced a wave of political violence in the run-up to provincial elections that took place last Saturday, but these are the worst armed clashes since thousands of Sunnis took to the streets last December to protest about their treatment by the Shia led government.
Iraq's defense ministry told Reuters that security forces responded after being fired upon by protestors in Hawija town, near Kirkuk.
"When the armed forces started... to enforce the law using units of riot control forces they confronted with heavy fire," said the ministry in a statement.
Protestors told the news agency that they were unarmed when troops opened fire.