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Kurdish leader: Clerics 'instigated ... acts of sabotage,' wounding 25

From Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN
December 3, 2011 -- Updated 2129 GMT (0529 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • At least 25 are wounded, some of them police, in Zakho, security officers say
  • The leader of the Kurdish region blames men "instigated by some clerics"
  • Places owned by "Christians and Yazidis" were targeted, the leader says
  • In addition, several people attacked some Islamist political party offices

Baghdad (CNN) -- At least 25 people were wounded in northern Iraq in alleged "acts of sabotage" carried out by men who had been "instigated" by Muslim clerics, a Kurdish leader and local security officers said.

The incident occurred Friday afternoon in Zakho, which is in Iraq's Kurdistan region near the Turkish border and about 540 kilometers (335 miles) north of Baghdad.

Security officers in the Dohuk Governate, which includes Zahko, said that "dozens of young men" attacked at least 15 liquor stores, two massage parlors and two hotels after Friday noon prayers.

The officers claimed that clerics "instigated" the action. So, too, did Massoud Barzani -- the president of the Iraq's Kurdistan autonomous region -- who blamed "men who were instigated by some clerics to carry out acts of sabotage."

The Kurdish leader said, in his statement Saturday, that the attackers targeted "a number of tourist facilities, especially facilities owned by ... Christians and Yazidis."

Tourist facilities were targeted, according to the president of the Iraq\'s Kurdistan autonomous region.
Tourist facilities were targeted, according to the president of the Iraq's Kurdistan autonomous region.

Religious minorities, such as Christians and Yazidis, make up less than 5% of Iraq's population, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Since 2003, attacks against these minorities by insurgents and religious extremists have driven more than half of these minorities out of the country, according to U.N. statistics.

Yazidis, among Iraq's smallest minorities, are of Kurdish descent, and their religion is considered a pre-Islamic sect that draws from Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism.

Barzani said that, regretfully, "in response to these riotous actions, ... a group of people attacked a number of headquarters of the (Kurdistan) Islamic Union," a prominent political party.

Authorities "made a major effort" to prevent the "acts of sabotage, but they could not," the Kurdish leader said. Several police were among those wounded, according to security officers.

"I denounce these inhumane and illegal acts, and I call on the people of Kurdistan to respect the national, religious and sectarian coexistence and take it as a basic goal for them to live together peacefully," Barzani said.

A special committee has been formed to investigate the incident "and take legal action" against those involved, the Kurdish leader added.

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