Thousands of marchers took to the streets in several Iraqi cities, clashing with security forces and gathering at government buildings. At least six Iraqis were killed in the northern part of the country when security forces opened fire in an attempt to push the throng back. Scuffles were also seen in Baghdad, where demonstrators threw rocks and upended barricades.
Corruption, high unemployment and poor public services have fueled the demonstrators’ anger. The outrage has posed a fresh challenge to the embattled coalition government in Iraq and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The U.S. embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone has also been a point of contention.
Security forces have stepped up efforts to head off protests that have roiled governments in other parts of the Middle East. Several cities in Iraq have been the site of demonstrations in recent weeks, including Fallujah and Karbala, where an estimated 1,000 gathered, and the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah.
Afghan Investigators Say NATO Operation Killed Civilians
Investigators from the Afghan government believe a NATO strike killed 65 people last week in Kunar province. NATO has denied the finding, saying that the strikes last week targeted insurgents only. President Hamid Karzai has backed the Afghan investigators’ conclusion.
The incident took place in darkness as part of a three-day campaign in the area, with no known photographs or video. NATO officials have suggested that villagers inflicted burn wounds on children to create the impression they had been wounded in the strike, a conclusion met with outrage by the Afghan government. NATO also said pro-Taliban groups have used the incident to propagandize the population and stir up anger.
FBI: Saudi Student Intended to Target Bush Home in Texas
Authorities said Khalid Aldawsari, a 20-year-old Saudi student who was arrested Wednesday in Lubbock, Texas, had considered targeting the the Dallas area home of former president George W. Bush, as well as the homes of several Americans who had worked at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Aldawsari was in possession of bomb-making materials and was brought to the attention of authorities when he tried to purchase chemicals used in explosive devices from several American companies. He is believed to have been working alone, but inspired by Osama bin Laden and al Qaida, according to writings found in his journals.
Aldawsari’s studies were funded by a Saudi corporation, and he had been enrolled at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and Texas Tech before attending a community college in Lubbock. He had no criminal background and had not drawn the attention of authorities before his arrest.
New Zealand Quake Death Toll Climbs to More Than 100
Searchers continued to look for possible survivors in the rubble of a 6.3-magnitude earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, but hopes were fading as the death toll reached 113 with 200 still missing.
The earthquake Tuesday was considered an aftershock to a more powerful one in September, but the casualties have been much higher as buildings collapsed in a densely populated area of Christchurch.