10 wounded in north Iraq demos

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Ten protesters were wounded on Saturday in clashes with Kurdish security forces in the latest violent rally in Iraq demanding that officials combat graft and improve basic services.

The rally, along with another in the same Kurdish city and others in Baghdad, came after two protests in as many days earlier this week left three people dead and more than 100 wounded.

"Ten people who were demonstrating were wounded in the head, the arm or the back," said Raykot Hama Rashid, the head of the provincial health department in Sulaimaniyah province, in the northern autonomous Kurdish region.

He said the people had suffered bruises after being hit by sticks and gun butts.

The confrontations broke out when protesters attempted, for the second time in three days, to storm an office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of regional president Massud Barzani, the dominant political bloc in the region.

On Thursday, demonstrators attempted a similar tactic, only for security forces to fire into the air, killing two people and leaving 54 others wounded.

More than 1,000 people had attended the protest, which began in the early afternoon at a main square in Sulaimaniyah, to call for the release of individuals arrested over Thursday's rally.

They also called for the prosecution of the head of the city's KDP office who, they claimed, gave the order for security forces to open fire.

Earlier in the day, around 2,000 students at Sulaimaniyah University demonstrated on campus, demanding an apology from Barzani for Thursday's deaths.

"The authorities in the region do not understand what democracy means," said Frishta Karim, a 21-year-old university student. "We firmly reject the use of weapons against demonstrators."

Police at the rally refused to allow the protesters to exit the campus, an AFP journalist at the scene said.

One banner called on Barzani, whose KDP is the dominant political force in the region, "to apologise to the people of Sulaimaniyah for his guards' shootings."

Barzani has called for a full investigation into the incident.

Immediately after Thursday's protests, looters attacked the offices of opposition movement Goran in Arbil and Dohuk provinces that, along with Sulaimaniyah, make up the Kurdish region.

Goran denied it was part of the Thursday demonstration, and party officials have claimed that the looters were KDP loyalists.

An incident in the national parliament on Saturday highlighted the differences between the two sides.

Goran's parliamentary leader Shoresh Hadji claimed in the Council of Representatives that KDP guards had fired on peaceful demonstrators. He was interrupted by KDP representative Ashwaq al-Jaff, who shouted back: "That's not true! It was the demonstrators who attacked the KDP and not the opposite!"

Meanwhile, in west Baghdad, several hundred orphans and widows demonstrated to call for better compensation for the families of victims of violence, levels of which remain high by international standards despite having fallen from a peak in 2006 and 2007.

According to the United Nations, Baghdad alone is home to around 336,000 orphans and 871,000 female-headed households, the majority as a result of husbands having been killed.