BAGHDAD — Acting Defense Minister Saadun Al-Dulaimi Sunday accused Turkey of controlling Sunni anti-government protests in Shiite-majority Iraq, saying the demonstrations are a haven for “terrorists and killers.”
“There are foreign agendas controlling these sites,” Dulaimi said of the protests.
“It is like Anbar, or Mosul or Samarra are part of the Ottoman Empire,” he said, referring to Sunni areas in Iraq.
Areas of what is now Iraq were part of the Ottoman Empire, which was governed from Istanbul in what is now Turkey, before the empire’s dissolution after World War I.
Ties between Baghdad and Ankara have been strained by issues including Turkey hosting Tareq Al-Hashemi, Iraq’s fugitive former vice president who has been sentenced to death on charges including murder.
Dulaimi also had harsh words for the protesters themselves.
“Shame... on those sites that are opening their doors to Istanbul or any other country,” he said. “Protest sites have become a safe haven for terrorists and killers and those who call for strife, sectarianism and hate.”
The protests broke out in Sunni areas of Shiite-majority Iraq more than four months ago.
Demonstrators have called for the resignation of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, a Shiite, and criticized authorities for allegedly targeting their community with wrongful detentions and accusations of involvement in terrorism.
On April 23, security forces moved on protesters near the town of Hawijah in Kirkuk province, sparking clashes that killed 53 people.
Meanwhile, Al-Maliki said Sunday the government took the necessary steps “a long time ago” on fake bomb detectors, despite the fact that they are still in widespread use in the country.
“We took the necessary measures in a timely manner on this file, a long time ago,” Prime Minister Maliki said regarding the devices that Iraq had bought from a British businessman, according to a statement on his website.
Maliki said legal action has been taken against some of those involved in the case. “We will continue to follow this file in accordance with developments inside and outside Iraq,” he added.
The businessman James McCormick made an estimated £50 million ($76 million/59 million euros) selling to Iraq and other countries the devices, which prosecutors said were based on a novelty golf ball finder and did not work.
He was sentenced on Thursday by a judge in Britain to 10 years in jail for fraud.
But despite the sentencing and overwhelming evidence that the devices are worthless, the Iraqi government has not taken them out of circulation, and security forces continue to use them at checkpoints. — AFP