BAGHDAD, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Protesters in the Iraqi port city of Basra called for improvements in basic services as Kurdish officials sent in their security forces to control the north.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sent one of his deputies to the southern Iraqi city of Kut to check ongoing political turmoil there. Al-Jazeera reports that around 1,000 people took to the streets of Basra demanding better jobs and improved living conditions.
In the north, warning shots were fired into the air but security guards later turned their fire on protesters throwing rocks at government buildings.
The Kurdish Peshmerga forces were sent into the city of Sulaymaniyah to protect government buildings and public institutions after demonstrators stormed the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.
The Voices of Iraq news agency reported that at least 45 people were killed during clashes between protesters and police forces in the northern Kurdish city Thursday.
Provincial leaders ordered a curfew through much of the weekend in an effort to control the security situation.
Security officials, meanwhile, blamed unnamed religious groups for inciting violence in the Shiite south.
Maliki said he supported the right of the people to voice their frustrations so long as the demonstrations were peaceful.
Iraq is struggling to put the finishing touches on its government after a political dispute that lasted nearly a year. Lawmakers shot down a proposal Thursday to add a fourth vice president to the Cabinet.