Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has warned security forces not to fire at protesters, a day after a demonstrator was killed in the southern city of Basra.
“The state will not be lenient with any member of the security forces who violates orders of not using bullets against protesters,” al-Kadhimi said in a tweet on Saturday, adding that the person who killed the protester will be arrested and tried.
Security forces opened fire during clashes with protesters in Basra on Friday, killing one and wounding at least five others. The protesters were calling for better living conditions and an end to corruption in the country.
The Iraqi Interior Ministry earlier said that a suspect was arrested in Friday’s killing, but without specifying whether he was a security agent.
It was the first killing of a protester by security forces in Basra since al-Kadhimi took office in May.
During months of anti-government protests that erupted under al-Kadhimi’s predecessor Adel Abdul Mahdi in October 2019, more than 500 people were killed, mostly young unarmed demonstrators.
Deadly flare-ups have been rare since protests against Iraq’s ruling elite subsided earlier this year.
The Basra security sources and a rights official told Reuters news agency that several dozen protesters had taken to the streets in the country’s southern oil hub on Friday.
They were angry that al-Kadhimi had generally failed to deliver on jobs and basic services and that protest camps had been cleared by security forces in Basra and Baghdad, the rights official said.
Al-Kadhimi, who visited Basra on Thursday to tour energy projects and meet provincial officials, has pledged to protect non-violent Iraqi protesters and bring justice to the families of those killed last year by security forces and unidentified gunmen.
Security forces in Baghdad last month were ordered not to use live fire in dealing with protests to mark the anniversary of the 2019 demonstrations.