Kurdish protesters set fire to KDP office in northern Iraq

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 18, 2017 8:20 AM

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq (Reuters) - Kurdish protesters demanding the ouster of the semi-autonomous regional government in northern Iraq set fire to an office of the ruling Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) on Monday near the city of Sulaimaniyah, social media footage showed.

Local media reported that protesters had also set fire to the offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the KDP's coalition partner in government, as well as to those of two other regional parties.

Reuters was able to independently verify only those fires at the KDP office, but Iraqi state television reported that the offices of several Kurdish political parties had been set on fire, without naming the parties.

At least 3,000 Kurdish demonstrators had gathered earlier in Sulaimaniyah in protest against the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) after years of austerity and unpaid public sector salaries.

Teachers, hospital workers and other public sector employees demanded their wages from the KRG, with some saying they had not been paid in over three years.

In the decade following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Kurdistan insulated itself against violence plaguing the rest of the country and enjoyed an economic boom fueled by rising Iraqi oil revenues, of which the region received a share.

The bubble began to deflate in early 2014 when the Baghdad central government slashed funds to the KRG after it built its own oil pipeline to Turkey in pursuit of economic independence.

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The central government imposed more measures after the KRG unilaterally held an independence referendum on Sept. 25 and Kurds voted overwhelmingly to secede, defying Baghdad and alarming neighboring Turkey and Iran who have their own Kurdish minorities.

The Iraqi government responded by seizing Kurdish-held Kirkuk and other territory disputed between the Kurds and the central government. It also banned direct flights to Kurdistan and demanded control over border crossings.

(Reporting by Reuters Video News; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Richard Balmforth)