Protesters release two Iraqi soldiers

Anti-government protesters released two Iraqi soldiers they had seized near Ramadi, west of Baghdad, a protest organiser and a doctor said on Wednesday.

The soldiers were taken after deadly clashes between security forces and demonstrators in north Iraq left dozens dead and sparked a wave of revenge attacks.

Abdulrazzaq al-Shammari, one of the organisers of the protests near Ramadi, said the two soldiers were turned over to a hospital in the city on Tuesday.

He also said the demonstrators were demanding that Iraqi soldiers withdraw from all cities in Anbar province, where Ramadi is located, and remain in their main bases.

Dr Ahmed al-Ani, the director of the emergency department at the Ramadi hospital, said the facility had received two soldiers. One was wounded and still in hospital, while the second was released.

Police First Lieutenant Ibrahim Faraj said on Tuesday that armed protesters killed six Iraqi soldiers near Ramadi and burned two armoured personnel carriers, but put the number of kidnapped soldiers at one instead of two.

Protesters have taken to the streets in Sunni-majority areas of Iraq for more than four months, calling for the resignation of Maliki and decrying the alleged targeting of their minority community by the Shiite-led authorities.

Clashes and attacks involving security forces, protesters and their supporters left 54 people dead country-wide on Tuesday, the worst protest-related violence since the demonstrations began.