RAMADI, Iraq, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of Sunni Arabs on Sunday took to the streets and blocked the highways in Iraq's western province of Anbar to neighboring Syria and Jordan, demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
The demonstrators, including local officials and Sunni clerics, mainly rallied in Anbar's capital city of Ramadi and the provincial cities of Fallujah and al-Qaim near the Syrian border.
"We want the government to abandon its sectarian rhetoric when it deals with Sunni community and to free Sunni detainee," a Sunni cleric told protestors by loudspeakers in a demonstration on a highway at the edge of Fallujah, some 50 km west of the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad.
Many protestors carried posters of the Sunni finance minister, Rafia al-Issawi, whose protection force chief and nine bodyguards were recently arrested by Maliki's security forces over charges of terrorism.
"We are not only protesting for Issawi and his bodyguards, we are here to demand the release of all innocent prisoners who are in custody of the detention of the defense and interior ministries, " a protestor in his 50s told Xinhua.
Last week, the Iraqi security forces arrested chief of Issawi's protection force and nine bodyguards over charges of terrorism, sparking anger among the Sunni community against Maliki's Shiite- dominated government.
On Saturday, the Sunni-backed parliamentary bloc of Iraqia, headed by former prime minister Ayad Allawi, threatened to withdraw from the country's political process if the government refrains from allowing monitoring investigation with the guards of the bloc's finance minister.
"The Iraqia List will withdraw from the government and from the parliament if the government would not response positively to the demand of allowing independent bodies, including Iraqia bloc, to monitor the interrogation with the arrested bodyguards," Haidar al- Mulla, spokesman of the Iraqia bloc told reporters here.
On Thursday, Issawi held a press conference, during which he described the security force that raided his house as "militia force" which acted "illegally without judicial order."
On Dec. 19, 2011, an Iraqi arrest warrant was issued against the Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi on charges of running death squad and dozens of his bodyguards were arrested.
Soon after the U.S. troops fully withdrew from Iraq late last year, Iraq plunged into a serious political row as Maliki sought to arrest his political rival Hashimi, a leading member of the Sunni-backed Iraqia bloc, over terror charges.