Two Kurdish political parties withdrew from northern Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on Wednesday as a show of support for the ongoing protests in the nearby city of Sulaymaniyah.
In a joint statement, the Gorran (Change) Movement and the Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal) both announced their withdrawal from the KRG's ruling coalition.
The move comes as large anti-government rallies entered their third day in Sulaymaniyah, where the two parties — along with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan — are based.
The move means that Gorran, which holds 24 seats in the KRG's parliament, will forfeit parliamentary speakership, along with the KRG's finance, economy and peshmerga affairs portfolios.
Since Monday, Sulaymaniyah, one of Iraqi Kurdistan's largest cities, has been rocked by massive demonstrations by civil servants demanding the payment of overdue salaries and an end of perceived government corruption.
At least six protesters were shot dead by local security forces in the city on Tuesday, while a number of public facilities, including several party offices, were torched by angry demonstrators.
According to local witnesses, protesters set fire to the local offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party — the KRG's leading coalition partner — and the Iraqi Turkmen Front.
Local authorities have since stepped up security throughout the region in an effort to prevent further escalation.
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said on Wednesday it was concerned with the closure of a local Kurdish broadcaster at the hands of Iraqi Kurdish security forces a day earlier.
"We are concerned by recent actions to curb the operations of some media outlets through force or intimidation, specifically yesterday's raid by Kurdistan Regional Government security forces of the NRT offices in Sulaymaniyah," the embassy said in a statement
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also warned the KRG on Tuesday against using violence to suppress the recent demonstrations.
"The demonstrations in northern Iraq stem from the KRG's wrong policies. The regional government's duty is to provide security of life and property for all citizens. If the demonstrators are harmed, we will intervene," Abadi said, as he urged the regional government to meet its citizen's demands.
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