Sunnis gather in major cities in mass protests

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BAGHDAD (AP) — Tens of thousands of Sunni Muslims have gathered in several Iraqi cities to protest against what they describe as unfair treatment by the country's Shiite-led government.

In the western cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, former insurgent strongholds, demonstrators blocked the main highway to Jordan and Syria to perform Friday noon prayers. Others gathered in main squares in the northern cities of Samarra and Mosul, and outside a prominent Sunni mosque in the Baghdad.

In the capital, security forces blocked roads leading from Sunni-dominated provinces and sealed off all Sunni neighborhoods.

Sunnis have staged mass rallies since late December, demanding Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki step down and calling for an end to raids in their areas and measures against former regime officials, as well as for the release of prisoners.

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