Iraq Sunnis decry Shiite-led government's policies

January 18, 2013
A policeman stands guard at the scene after a car bomb attack outside a mosque in Dujail, Iraq, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. Insurgents unleashed a string of bomb attacks mainly targeting Shiite Muslim pilgrims across Iraq on Thursday, killing and wounding scores of people, police said. (AP Photo/ Karim Kadim)

BAGHDAD (AP) — Thousands of Sunnis are rallying in western and central Iraq against the Shiite-led government's policies they see as sidelining their minority group.

Friday's protests come amid rising tensions among Iraq's ethnic and sectarian groups that are threatening to plunge the country into more instability.

Protesters in the central city of Samarra demanded the government release more Sunni detainees from jails and halt allegedly random arrests of Sunnis.

The bombing of the Shiite al-Askari shrine in Samarra in 2006 sparked years of retaliatory bloodshed between Sunni and Shiite extremists.

Thousands also rallied Friday in the Sunni strongholds of Anbar and Ninevah provinces.

The latest wave of Sunni protests erupted last month after the arrest on terrorism charges of a bodyguard assigned to a Sunni government minister.