Protests rock Iraqi Kurdistan for second day
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Protests rock Iraqi Kurdistan for second day

Fallout from September independence referendum continues to fuel anger as Kurdish economy falters and dissension grows

Iraqi Kurdish students from Salahaddin University wave the Kurdish flag as they demonstrate in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, on December 11, 2017, against the Iraqi prime minister. (AFP Photo/Safin Hamed)
Iraqi Kurdish students from Salahaddin University wave the Kurdish flag as they demonstrate in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, on December 11, 2017, against the Iraqi prime minister. (AFP Photo/Safin Hamed)

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq — Protesters in Iraqi Kurdistan torched a mayor’s office and stormed a ruling party building on Tuesday as anger raged for a second day at the disastrous fallout from a September independence referendum.

The vote delivered a resounding “yes” but drew sweeping reprisals from Baghdad which have dealt a heavy blow to the autonomous region’s economy.

In its second largest city Sulaimaniyah, security forces fired in the air to disperse demonstrators marching on the central Saray Square, an AFP correspondent reported.

Roadblocks sprang up across the city on major roads and around the offices of the main political parties.

Sulaimaniyah is a bastion of opposition to former regional president Massoud Barzani, who organized the independence vote, but all five of the region’s main political parties saw their offices attacked on Monday.

Protests were also held in the Sulaimaniyah province towns of Rania and Kifri, and in Halabja and Koysinjaq in neighboring Arbil province.

In Koysinjaq, demonstrators set fire to the mayor’s office, while in Kifri hundreds stormed the offices of Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party after pelting the building with stones, witnesses said.

“You’re incapable — incapable of defending the disputed areas and incapable of ruling the Kurdistan region,” one demonstrator shouted.

The disputed areas are a large swath of historically Kurdish-majority territory outside the autonomous region that Kurdish leaders have long wanted to incorporate in it.

The Kurds took control of many of them during the fight against the Islamic State group beginning in 2014.

But after the independence referendum, federal forces retook nearly all of them, including the large city of Kirkuk and its nearby oil fields, which accounted for a major part of the autonomous government’s revenues.

Barzani announced he was stepping down in late October after the independence vote backfired.

Legislative and presidential elections in the region due on November 1 were postponed because of the turmoil.

Prime minister Nechirvan Barzani, the ex-president’s nephew, has pledged to hold the polls over the next three months.

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