- Title: IRAQ: Four killed in Iraq fuel protests, say police
- Date: 1st January 2006
- Summary: SLV SHOTS ARE OVERHEARD / PEOPLE RUNNING FOR COVER (AUDIO OF GUNFIRE) MORE OF PEOPLE TAKING COVER (AUDIO OF GUNFIRE)
- Embargoed: 16th January 2006 12:00
- Location: Iraq
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement
- Reuters ID: LVA7YLR765CFSFWSY3Y3JNLIDFGR
- Story Text: Security forces in Iraq shot dead four people protesting against a recent hike in fuel prices on Sunday (January 1), police said, after rioters set cars and petrol stations on fire near the northern oil city of Kirkuk.
Iraq, which has the world's third biggest oil reserves, is grappling with its latest fuel crisis and price rises imposed by a deal with the International Monetary Fund; longer than usual queues have built up at petrol stations and many who voted in last month's peaceful election talk of disillusion.
In Rahinawa, near Kirkuk, security forces opened fire on young men as they marched down a main street protesting a lack of basic amenities and the doubling and tripling of
prices for vehicle fuel and household gas 13 days ago, police said.
At least four protesters were killed and two wounded, police Captain Salaam Zangana said. A curfew was imposed. Police said it was unclear whether U.S. or Iraqi forces fired.
Footage shot by a Reuters cameraman on the scene showed young men marching down a street diving for cover after a barrage of gunshots rang out.
The footage showed both Iraqi troops and U.S. humvees in the area, but the source of the gunfire could not be determined.
A spokesman for U.S. forces said U.S. troops wounded only one person in a car at a checkpoint and said there were no other gunshot casualties in the hospital.
The protesters set fire to an office building belonging to Iraq's North Oil Company, a police colonel said. Four cars and two petrol stations were also set ablaze.
The protest was the latest in a wave of demonstrations against the fuel price hike across the country -- an increase that heralds cuts in huge subsidies that are planned as part of an IMF economic reform and aid package signed last month.
Despite its vast oil reserves, Iraq has struggled to deal with energy supply at home; it spends billions importing fuel, as frequent sabotage attacks on oil infrastructure and equipment ravaged by years of war and sanctions crimp oil production and refining operations.
The country's precarious supply system was thrown into further disarray when the government shut its main northern refinery over 10 days ago, prompting long lines at petrol stations amidst fears the pumps would run dry.
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