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Middle East Today: Iraq's Escalation in Violence

Turkey: Erdogan Hails Withdrawal

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has hailed the planned withdrawal of fighters of the insurgent Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from Turkey as the end of a "dark era" but warned against potential sabotage of the peace process.

The PKK withdrawal is due to begin on 8 May.

"The door is closing on a dark era. Turkey is changing its ill fortune and is entering a new phase," Erdoğan told a business group in comments broadcast live by State television. He added:

No one should try to pull this process in a different direction. We remain vigilant against sabotage, against provocations, but today we are much more hopeful, determined and optimistic.

Iraq: 10 Members of Security Forces Killed

Gunmen killed five army intelligence soldiers in two attacks west of Baghdad while others shot dead five anti-insurgent militiamen north of the capital on Saturday.

One group of soldiers were driving near the site of a long-running anti-government protest when they were stopped by gunmen. They shot one of the gunmen, wounding him, and clashes broke out in which four of the soldiers were killed and another wounded.

Gunmen also killed one soldier and wounded another in a similar incident involving a second vehicle in the same area.

Assailants killed five Sahwa militiamen in an attack, on a checkpoint south of Tikrit, which lies north of the Iraqi capital.

Iraq: Violence Continues

The death toll from four days of violence is now more than 190, amid continuing protests against the Government of Nouri al-Maliki.

United Nations envoy Martin Kobler warned on Friday that Iraq was at a "crossroads".

Bombings at four Sunni mosques in and around Baghdad killed four people and wounded 50 yesterday.

Sunni gunmen also fought Government forces on Friday after they took over Suleiman Beg, a town in Salahuddin Province north of Baghdad, in response to a deadly raid --- in which more than 50 people died --- in the town of Hawija on Wednesday.

Ahmed Aziz, the town's municipal council deputy chief, said the armed men had pulled out of Suleiman Beg under a deal worked out by tribal leaders and government officials.

The violence is the most serious sustained spike in killings since mainly-Sunni demonstrations escalated in December 2012 against the Government, calling for release of political prisoners, an end to discrimination against the religious minority, and revision of anti-terrorism legislation.

See also Iraq Audio Analysis: The Political Story Behind This Week's Deaths --- Scott Lucas with Monocle 24


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