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Iraqis protest against parliamentarians' perks

Hundreds of Iraqis have taken to the streets to protest against generous perks paid to parliamentarians. Meanwhile, at least 12 people were killed in the latest violence to hit the country.

Demonstrators held rallies in the capital, Baghdad, as well as a number of other cities in central and southern Iraq on Saturday, to protest in particular against lawmakers' retirement benefits.

Parliamentarians are entitled to monthly pension payments of several thousand dollars per month, regardless of how long they are in office. This is many times more than the average salaries of government employees or those working in the private sector.

The demonstrators turned out in Bagdad despite the fact that local authorities did not grant permission for the rally. Security forces dressed in riot gear were deployed in large numbers to contain the protest, with some blocking bridges or surrounding demonstrators in major squares.

A spokesman for the interior ministry defended the show of force, saying they were concerned about the possibility of suicide bombers attacking the rallies.

Although the particular focus of the protests was parliamentarians' pensions, demonstrators also voiced their displeasure at lawmakers' inability to deliver basic amenities in some parts of the country.

"A huge amount of money goes to these people," Aamer Qasim, a pharmacist who attended a demonstration in Baghdad told the AFP news agency.

"The money should be spent on health, on education, on electricity, on infrastructure," he said.

Car bombing

Meanwhile, there was more violence in Iraq on Saturday, with at least 12 people reported killed and 20 others wounded after a car bomb went off in the city of Ramadi, around 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Baghdad.

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of attacks on civilians in Iraq since the start of 2013. More than 1,000 people were killed in July, making it the country's deadliest month since 2008. This comes amid growing tensions between the Shi'ite, Kurdish and Sunni factions in Iraq's power-sharing government.

pfd/slk (AFP, Reuters, AP)