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Crowds rampage in Iraqi Kurdish city after sermons

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[December 03, 2011]  BAGHDAD (AP) -- Rioters attacked liquor stores, a massage parlor and hotels after being stirred up by fiery sermons in a predominantly Kurdish city in north Iraq, police officials said Saturday. Pro-government crowds then attacked Islamist party offices in retaliation, they said.

Thirty people including 20 policemen were reported injured in the rampage, which followed Friday midday prayers in the town of Zakho, some 300 miles (475 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad. Zakho lies within the territory controlled by Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government.

Some 30 liquor stores, four hotels, and a massage parlor in and around the city near the Turkish border were ransacked, set on fire or otherwise damaged, they said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Angry crowds then attacked offices belonging to a Kurdistan-based Islamist party in retaliation, officials said. Six headquarters of the Kurdistan Islamic Union in and around Zakho, and in the nearby city of Dohuk, were set on fire or otherwise assaulted, said Zakho police officer Ahmed Doski.

Islamic Union activist Salahudden Babekir blamed the attacks on his party on activists of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party, and denied that his group had any role in Friday's violence.

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Islamists have become more active recently in Kurdistan as the secular-leaning KDP and its partner in government and sometime-rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, have become preoccupied with internal conflicts.

The Kurdistan government's interior ministry issued a statement late Friday condemning the violence, describing them as an attempt to inflame the situation in the northern self-rule enclave, and promised to bring those involved to justice. It called on citizens to show self-restraint and to solve their problems through dialogue.

[Associated Press; By BUSHRA JUHI]

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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