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Middle East protests hit Baghdad

By the CNN Wire Staff
Iraqi men protest against corruption in central Baghdad on February 18, 2011.
Iraqi men protest against corruption in central Baghdad on February 18, 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • About 200 protesters marched in central Baghdad on Friday
  • Multiple protests have broken out across Iraq this week
  • Human Rights Watch wants an independent investigation of violence tied to the protests
RELATED TOPICS
  • Baghdad
  • Iraq
  • Nuri al-Maliki

(CNN) -- Roughly 200 Iraqi protesters hit the streets Friday in central Baghdad, the latest in a string of Middle East cities to be affected by the wave of unrest sweeping the region.

Protesters are also trying to organize a larger demonstration -- part of what they are now calling the "Iraqi revolution" -- for next Friday. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told reporters "there should be no problem" issuing official permission for a larger protest if a formal request is made.

The prime minister expressed concern, however, that protesters could be "infiltrated by saboteurs either from those who lost in (Iraq's recent) elections or by the remains of the Baathists or al-Qaeda terrorists."

Iraq, like many of its neighbors, has been convulsed by popular protests since demonstrations toppled the leader of Tunisia last month.

1 dead, 55 wounded in Iraq protests

One person was killed and 57 were injured Thursday when hundreds of protesters clashed with security forces in Sulaimaniya, a city in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, according to Dr. Raykot Hamed Salih, a health official there.

Dozens of protesters attacked the Kurdistan Democratic Party headquarters in the city and destroyed furniture and computers inside the building, police officials in Sulaimaniya told CNN.

Witnesses told CNN that Kurdish security forces, known as peshmerga, opened fire to disperse the protesters.

The demonstrators were angry about corruption, the quality of basic services and unemployment, Salih said.

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Meanwhile, at least one person was shot dead and 55 others -- including four police -- were wounded Wednesday when private security guards and Iraqi security forces fired on hundreds of demonstrators outside the governor's office in the eastern city of Kut, health officials said.

Human Rights Watch released a statement Thursday demanding that Iraqi authorities allow an independent investigation of the recent violence.

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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