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Sectarian Violence Escalates in Iraq

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) -- There was more sectarian turmoil in Iraq Thursday as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pleaded with both Shiites and Sunnis not to escalate the current violence even further.

As many as 150 people have been killed in three days of fighting that was touched off last Tuesday when Iraqi troops stormed a Sunni protest encampment near Kirkuk in search of gunmen responsible for last week's attack on a military checkpoint.

With dozens dead, including civilians, Sunni tribesmen vowed to take up arms against what they deem violent oppression by the Shiite-led government.

Unrest has now spread from province to province, replacing once peaceful demonstrations that alleged the government has been marginalizing Sunnis and Kurds.

In Mosul Thursday, local police fought against militants.  After the standoff ended, 10 cops and more than 30 Sunni gunmen were dead.

Prime Minister Maliki went on TV Thursday to urge Iraqis not to resort to violence to settle their differences.  Until recently, much of the tumult has been stirred up by al Qaeda's main group in Iraq.

The prime minister argued that if Shiites and Sunnis begin fighting one another, "All will lose."

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