FALLUJA, Iraq — At least nine people were wounded on Friday when Iraqi troops opened fire in the air during clashes with Sunni protesters rallying against Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, officials and witnesses said.
Thousands of Sunni protesters have taken to the streets in western Anbar province since late December in a major challenge to Maliki's fragile government, split among Shiites, Sunnis, and ethnic Kurds, a year after the last American troops left.
"We have nine wounded, two were hit by army vehicles and the rest were wounded by gunfire," said a senior local government official who asked not to be identified.
A Reuters witness at the scene said troops fired in the air to disperse protesters.
Friday's clashes in Fallujah, a predominantly Sunni city 50 km (30 miles) north of capital, erupted after the army arrested three protesters and clashed with rock-throwing demonstrators trying to block a major highway, authorities said.
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein after the U.S.-led invasion a decade ago, many Iraq Sunnis feel they have been marginalized by the country's Shiite leadership and believe Maliki is amassing power at their community's expense.
© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.