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Tensions High After Security Forces Raid Sunni Protest Camp In Iraq

Iraqi troops travel in military vehicles towards Hawija, near Kirkuk on April 23
Iraqi security forces have raided a Sunni protest camp, sparking a deadly gunbattle.

Iraq's Defense Ministry said at least 23 people, including three soldiers were killed in the clashes in Hawija, near Kirkuk, early on April 23.

It said troops responded when they came under fire by gunmen.

The ministry also said security forces detained 75 suspected insurgents and seized weapons.

Protest leaders said demonstrators were unarmed when the troops opened fire.

Iraq's Sunni Muslims have been holding protests since December, accusing the Shi'ite-led government of targeting their minority community.

The education minister and the science and technology minister, both Sunni Muslims, reportedly offered to resign in protest against the raid on April 23.

The violence in Hawija sparked apparent revenge attacks by Sunni Islamist militants on army and police outside Kirkuk and in Ramadi, west of Baghdad.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and dpa