Three Iraqi protesters killed as unrest sweep southern cities

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SHAFAQNA – The main gates to Iraq’s port of Umm Qasrnear basra were re-opened Monday following closure due to unrest over poor government services across southern cities.

Three officials said activities resumed at the port near the southern city of Basra after negotiations with protesters.

It came after two demonstrators were killed Sunday in clashes with Iraqi security forces in the town of Samawa. “Hundreds of people tried to storm a courthouse,” said a police official, NBC news reported.

In remarks to the Iraqi Mawazin website on Monday, a security source said, “65 protesters were apprehended while taking part in a rally in Muthanna governorate.”

The source pointed out that “the protests are sill ongoing in the governorate.”

On Sunday, an Iraqi protester was killed, while 15 others were injured in mass demonstrations in Muthanna governorate, Iraqi news reported.

According to Channel News Asia, about 200 protesters gathered at the main entrance to Iraq’s Siba natural gas field on Monday, police sources said.
Monday’s demonstration has not affected operations at Siba, which is run by Kuwait Energy PLC, Siba officials said.

Unrest in Iraq has forced a number of airlines in the Middle East to cut flights to troubled cities in the country, including Najaf and Basra. The tense security situation has led airlines such as FlyDubai, Emirates, Royal Jordanian, Oman Air, and Kuwait Airways to cancel some flights to Iraq.

Iranian airlines have also suspended some routes to cities affected by the unrest, such as Najaf and Basra.

Two FlyDubai flights to Najaf – FZ221 and FZ222 – were cancelled “due to disruption on the ground at Najaf Airport until 22nd July 2018”, the group said in a statement, The New Arab reported.

The unrest is piling pressure on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who hopes to serve a second term once politicians form a new government following a May 12 parliamentary election tainted by allegations of fraud.

Abadi, who also serves as commander-in-chief of Iraq’s armed forces, issued a nationwide order Sunday placing security forces on high alert in the southern provinces, aiming to stem the burgeoning protests.

Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has expressed solidarity with protesters, saying they faced an “extreme lack of public services.”

Police in Basra wounded 48 people Sunday when they fired in the air to disperse a crowd of hundreds that tried to storm a government building and demonstrated near an oil field.

Some 28 members of the security forces were also wounded, according to Maj. Gen. Thamir al-Hussaini, commander of the Interior Ministry’s Rapid Response Forces.

In a town near the southern city of Amara, police shot into the air to disperse protesters after demonstrators set fire to the municipality building. Thirteen protesters and seven policemen were wounded in the clashes.

Local officials said demonstrations have not affected crude production in Basra, whose shipments account for more than 95 percent of OPEC producer Iraq’s state revenues.

Abadi’s Dawa party has dominated Iraqi politics since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

“The Dawa party has been running Iraq for 15 years and its leaders failed to live up to even a single promise they made,” said Ziad Fadhil, 38, who is unemployed, in Basra. He held up a piece of cardboard to shield his head from the scorching sun.

A political bloc led by populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr unexpectedly won a majority in May’s vote on an anti-corruption platform that had appeal across Iraq’s electorate.

Abadi has said his caretaker government will release funds to Basra for water, electricity and health services but major relief is unlikely to come soon for the city once dubbed the “Venice of the Middle East” for its network of canals.

Iraq needs to generate billions of dollars to rebuild after its three-year war with Islamic State, NBC news reported.

 

Read more on Shafaqna: 

HUNDREDS OF IRAQIS RESUMED PROTEST IN DEMAND OF BASIC SERVICES 

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