Witnesses say thousands of protesters have demonstrated in Iraq’s western Sunni heartland following the arrest of bodyguards assigned to the finance minister, who draws support from the area.

The demonstrators on Sunday briefly blocked the main highway near the town of Fallujah linking Baghdad with neighbouring Jordan and Syria. It’s the second time in three days that protesters in Anbar province have flocked to the streets.

The protestors held banners denouncing what they called the “irresponsible practices” of the Shiite-led government against Sunnis and demanded the immediate release of Sunni Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi’s bodyguards.

On Friday, Iraq’s Shiite-led government said it had arrested 10 of al-Issawi’s bodyguards on terrorism-related charges. This threatens to exacerbate tensions with Iraq’s Sunnis, who accuse Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of targeting and marginalizing them.

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