Kurdish protesters set fire to KDP office in Sulaimaniyah

Local media reported that protesters had also set fire to the offices of the PUK

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

Tension has been high in the region since the central government in Baghdad imposed tough measures when the KRG unilaterally held an independence referendum on Sept. 25 and Kurds voted overwhelmingly to secede.

Demonstrators gather outside party offices to protest against Kurdish government corruption.

At least 3,000 Kurdish demonstrators had gathered in Sulaimaniyah for the protests on Monday against the KRG.

Men and women carried signs in Kurdish, Arabic, and English telling the executive and legislative branches of the KRG that they wanted them gone, holding up red cards to further make their point.

"Stop 26 years of robbery and wrong decisions," one read.

Teachers, hospital workers and other public sector employees demanded the regional government pay their wages. Some said they had not been paid in more than three years.

"These protests are different from earlier ones because the Kurdish public are not asking the government for something, they are asking the executive and legislature to leave," said protester Kameran Gulpi.

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 fuelled 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.

After the September referendum, 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.

On Sunday, offices of the Turkmen Front in Kirkuk also came under attacked by armed men.

The head of the Turkmen Front, Arshid Al Salehi said that there were no casualties in the attack, although the offices were severely damaged as rocket grenades were used.

Mr Al Salehi vowed that the Turkmen Front will not “surrender to any policy that is imposed [on the group].”

He called on the Iraqi prime minister, Haider Al Abadi, to help secure the front’s headquarters in Kirkuk.

“We are paying the price of opposing the Kurdish referendum,” he said in a statement.


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