BAGHDAD – Iraqi soldiers fired into the air Monday in an effort to disperse protesters demonstrating in the north of the country against the Shiite-led government, according to officials.
Two security officials in the Mosul operations command center said shots were fired after a small number of protesters in the city tried to climb onto Iraqi army Humvees. They said no one was injured in the shooting. One of the officials said three protesters were injured in a collision with an army vehicle.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information to reporters.
Protesters drawn primarily from Iraq's Sunni minority have been rallying for more than two weeks to protest what they see is unfair government treatment of their sect.
Separately, the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant activities, said al-Qaida's Iraq arm claimed responsibility for a wave of attacks on New Year's Eve that killed 23 people across Iraq.
In its message, the militant group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, also took note of the protesters who have been rallying in the western province of Anbar and other Sunni-dominated areas. It urged the demonstrators to make their intentions "pure and make it only for Allah," according to the SITE report.
The protests have been ongoing for more than two weeks following the arrest of bodyguards assigned to Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi, one of the central government's most senior Sunni officials.
Demonstrators' anger runs deeper than the arrests, tapping into Sunni feelings of discrimination and unfair application of laws against their sect by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite.