4 dead as tension spikes after Iraq protest camp shut

4 dead as tension spikes after Iraq protest camp shut
Military officers carry the coffin of a comrade during his funeral in the city of Nasiriyah, on December 31, 2013, after he was killed in fighting in the western Anbar province.

RAMADI, Iraq - Fresh clashes between Iraqi security forces and gunmen in Ramadi killed four people on Tuesday, as tension spiked following the closure of a nearby Sunni Arab anti-government protest site. Monday's removal of the sprawling protest camp on the edge of the city west of Baghdad was a victory of sorts for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has long wanted it gone.

But while the camp's closure removed a physical sign of deep-seated grievances among Sunni Arabs, it leaves underlying issues unaddressed and will likely inflame already-widespread anger among the minority community.

The fighting on Tuesday killed three gunmen and an Iraqi army sniper, while three militants were wounded, police and a doctor said.

An AFP journalist in Ramadi reported sporadic clashes in the city, which was under curfew, and said items including food and petrol were in short supply.

Security forces killed 10 gunmen on Monday in the Ramadi area during clashes as the protest camp was taken down, while violence spread to the nearby city of Fallujah.

There was also political fallout, with 44 MPs, most of them Sunnis, announcing they had submitted their resignations.

They called for "the withdrawal of the army... and the release of MP Ahmed al-Alwani," a Sunni who was arrested during a deadly raid on Saturday.

The raid on Alwani's house, which sparked clashes that killed his brother, five guards and a security forces member, also raised tensions.

While fighting broke out in the Ramadi area as the camp was closed, it was ultimately shut down without the level of deadly violence that accompanied the last major security forces operation at a protest site.

On April 23, security forces moved on a protest camp outside the northern town of Hawijah, triggering clashes that killed dozens of people, sparking a wave of revenge attacks and sending death tolls soaring.

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