BAGHDAD Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is facing protests from Sunni Muslims, an oil dispute with the Kurdistan region and turmoil in his own government. Now hackers have attacked his website to brand him a tyrant.
A group called "TeaM KuWaiT HaCkErS" posted on Maliki's website a picture of two women in black weeping and expressing support for Iraqis who it said were fighting oppression.
It compared the Shi'ite premier to neighbouring Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Shi'ite Iran, who is battling mainly Sunni rebels in an armed uprising that has killed 60,000 people.
"You want to be like Bashar al-Assad. You are a destroyer. Bashar is finished and victory is very close. God help you sons of Iraq against the tyranny," the statement said.
The prime minister's office said it was working to avoid future hacking. Hackers said it was the second time they had hit the premier's website.
Thousands of Sunni protesters have rallied daily since late December to demonstrate against what they see as marginalisation and abuses of their sect by Maliki's Shi'ite-led government and security forces.
More than a year after the last American troops left Iraq, Sunni protest and insurgent violence are heightening fears war in neighbouring Syria will upset Iraq's fragile sectarian and ethnic balance.
Many Iraqi Sunnis feel they have been sidelined since the fall of Sunni strongman Saddam Hussein and the rise of the country's Shi'ite majority though the ballot box after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
(Reporting by Raheem Salman; writing by Patrick Markey; editing by Andrew Roche)