Their chants included: ‘‘Iran out!’’ — a reference to what many Iraqis see as their neighbor’s influence over the government — and ‘‘Nouri al-Maliki is a liar.’’
Local TV broadcast what appeared to be tens of thousands of protesters massed along a highway near the western city of Ramadi, which has been the focus of demonstrations and sit-ins in recent weeks. Large crowds also converged on a stretch of the same highway near Fallujah.
About 3,000 people gathered in the northern city of Mosul, where they called for the release of female prisoners and to end to what they say are random arrests of Sunnis, while in the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk, about 1,000 protested to demand the release of Sunni detainees.
Protests were also reported in other areas, including the Sunni stronghold of Tikrit, the hometown of former dictator Saddam Hussein.
The highest ranking member of Saddam’s regime still at large, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, threw his support behind the protests in a video broadcast Friday evening by pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Arabiya.
Dressed in an olive, Saddam-era military uniform, the man purporting to be al-Douri told demonstrators they would have the support of ‘‘all the national and Islamic forces ... until (their) legitimate demands are achieved.’’
Al-Douri was the ‘‘king of clubs’’ in the deck of playing cards issued by the U.S. to help troops identify the most-wanted members of Saddam’s regime.
Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed reporting.
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