Iraqis attack government offices

Three people killed in clashes with security forces as protesters break into public offices and set buildings on fire.

    About 2,000 protesters marched in Kut to demand better services before storming the council building [Reuters]

    Three people have been killed and dozens wounded in clashes between security forces and protesters in a southern Iraqi province, after around 2,000 people attacked government offices in protest over poor services.

    Protesters took threw rocks and took over a provincial council building in Kut in Wasit province, about 160km southeast of Baghdad, on Wednesday. Three government buildings were set on fire, including the governor's official residence.

    A police source in Kut said three protesters were killed in clashes and about 30 wounded, including 15 policemen. A hospital source said one of the dead was a 16-year-old boy who suffered a bullet to the chest.

    Punishment pledged

    Officials said policemen and soldiers fired their weapons into the air in a bid to dissuade protesters, while private security guards employed by Wasit council opened fire directly into the crowd.

    "Those were private guards, only they fired at the protesters. They were outside the law," police Brigadier General Hussein Jassim told AFP. "Our forces only fired into the air."

    Major Mohammed Saleh, the senior police intelligence officer in Kut, said: "Measures will be taken against the private guards but after the situation has calmed down."

    Demonstrators are demanding Latif Hamad al-Tarfa, the provincial governor, resign over poor basic services such as electricity and water.

    They held up placards that said, "To all citizens: Electricity is only for officials", a reference to Iraq's dramatic shortfall in power provision.

    "We demand that our rights be met, that we have better services and that the authorities fight corruption," Ali Mohsen, a 54-year-old professor at Wasit university, said.

    "We demand that the governor resign ... all we need is services."

    An official told Al Jazeera that protesters were enraged by comments by al-Tarfa belittling demonstrators at a much smaller protest a week ago.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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