Violent protests grip Iraq | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 09, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:59 AM, September 09, 2018


Violent protests grip Iraq

Iraq vows action after Iran consulate burnt down, rocket fired at airport

  • Iraq parliament holds emergency talks/ PM describes unrest as 'political sabotage'



Basra airport was targeted by rocket fire yesterday after a night of protests over perceived misrule by Iraq's political elite during which demonstrators torched the Iranian consulate and briefly took oilfield workers hostage.

Iraqi security sources said three Katyusha rockets fired by unknown assailants had hit the perimeter of the airport, although no damage or casualties had been reported.

An official at the Iraqi airport said there was no disruption to operations, and flights were taking off and landing as normal.

Basra, Iraq's second biggest city, has been roiled by five days of deadly demonstrations, in which government buildings have been ransacked and set alight by protesters angry over political corruption. Protests first erupted in July over poor government services, but intensified this week.

At least 13 protesters have died, some in clashes with security forces, since Monday and dozens more have been wounded.

On Friday, protesters broke into the Iranian consulate, shouting condemnation of what many perceive as Iran's sway over Iraq's political affairs, and set it alight. Iran and Iraq both strongly condemned the move, raising fears of possible retribution.

Another group of protesters entered a water treatment facility linked to the West Qurna 2 oilfield, held two Iraqi employees hostage for about an hour before leaving peacefully. Production was not disrupted, a manager at the oilfield said.

Parliament convened an emergency session to discuss the escalating crisis in Basra on yesterday afternoon, when Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned against the politicisation of the crisis.

"Politics should be separated from security and services," he said, warning that the situation could descend into armed conflict.

At a cabinet meeting earlier yesterday, ministers agreed to send a delegation to Basra, and Abadi said he had ordered an investigation into the security forces "for not fulfilling their duties" in protecting government buildings and the Iranian consulate.

Meanwhile, two leading groups in Iraq's parliament yesterday called on Abadi to resign.

"We demand the government apologise to the people and resign immediately," said Hassan al-Aqouli, spokesman for the list of populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr which won the most seats in a May election.

Ahmed al-Assadi, spokesman for the second-largest Conquest Alliance list, denounced "the government's failure to resolve the crisis in Basra", a southern city where 12 protesters have been killed this week.

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