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BAGHDAD/IRBIL: Opposition groups quit the government of Iraq’s Kurdish region on Wednesday in protest at violent unrest in which at least three people were killed, with one group saying authorities had shown a flagrant disregard for life.

In another test for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, the United States meanwhile called on authorities in the semi-autonomous region to respect press freedoms after it shut down a local broadcaster.

The United Nations called for restraint on all sides.

Tension has been high in the region since the central government in Baghdad imposed tough measures in response to an independence referendum on Sept. 25 called by the KRG in which Kurds voted overwhelmingly to secede.

The move, in defiance of Baghdad, also alarmed neighboring Turkey and Iran who have their own Kurdish minorities.
Strains spilled onto the streets on Monday and Tuesday when Kurds joined protests against years of austerity and unpaid public sector salaries, with some burning down offices belonging to political parties.

At least three people were killed and more than 80 wounded on Tuesday in clashes with Kurdish security forces in Sulaimaniya, local officials said. Some were injured when the crowd was shot at with rubber bullets and sprayed with tear gas.

On Wednesday leading opposition movement Gorran withdrew its ministers from the KRG and Kurdistan Parliament Speaker Yousif Mohamed, a party member, resigned in response to the violence.

Some have demanded the regional government’s ousting.

“We urge the international community to confront the flagrant disregard for life, liberty and democracy shown by the authorities in #Kurdistan Region,” Gorran said in a tweet.

The Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal), another opposition party with a smaller presence in parliament, also withdrew from the government.

The US embassy in Baghdad said on Wednesday it was worried about the closure of a local Kurdish broadcaster at the hands of Iraqi Kurdish security forces a day earlier. Read More …