BAGHDAD — At least seven protesters and two soldiers were killed Friday in clashes that started after Iraqi army forces opened fire on demonstrators who had pelted them with rocks on the outskirts of Fallujah, west of Baghdad.
It was the first deadly confrontation in more than a month of antigovernment protests by mostly Sunni opponents of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
As a result, a curfew was imposed on Fallujah for Friday evening.
A security official said one clash started when protesters began throwing rocks at government forces at a checkpoint near a main highway.
The forces opened fire, and demonstrators responded by burning army vehicles and two cars, one belonging to a lawmaker from the mainly Sunni Iraqiya bloc and the other to a local politician from Anbar province.
Seven civilians were killed and 44 people were wounded, according to medical sources.
Later, unidentified gunmen shot dead two soldiers and wounded one at an army checkpoint south of Fallujah, in apparent retaliation, and gunmen kidnapped three soldiers, a police official said.
The Iraqi Defense Ministry later broadcast a statement saying it would investigate and punish those responsible for the gunfire, while compensating the people who were harmed.
New York Times