Unknown assailants have shot dead a prominent Iraqi protester and activist in Baghdad, according to reports citing security, medical and other sources.
Salah al-Iraqi was well-known for his active role in the anti-government protests that erupted in Iraq’s capital and the Shia-majority south last year, slamming the government as corrupt, inefficient and beholden to neighbouring Iran.
Al-Iraqi was killed on Tuesday in Baghdad’s eastern al-Jadida district, according to a medic, a security source and the Iraqi Network for Social Media (INSM), a collection of activists who reported on the protests and their aftermath.
All three sources confirmed to the AFP news agency that al-Iraqi died on his arrival at the nearby Sheikh Zayed hospital.
Rudaw Media Network also reported the killing, citing a source who said al-Iraqi was shot by two attackers six times.
Al-Jadida is a few kilometres from Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the protests from where al-Iraqi would broadcast live footage.
INSM said he had already been targeted twice before Tuesday’s shooting.
In his last post on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon, al-Iraqi had written: “The innocent die while the cowards rule.”
Nearly 600 people have lost their lives in protest-related violence since rallies began in October 2019, including young organisers who were shot dead.
Iraqi activist Salah Al-Iraqi was gunned down in Baghdad Al-Jadida tonight. He was shot five times and was known for his outspoken courage against corruption and militias. Salah was injured in an earlier protest. pic.twitter.com/Hd1f3eJUMy
— Steven Nabil (@thestevennabil) December 15, 2020
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who came to power in May after street pressure forced the previous prime minister to resign, has pledged to protect rallies and arrest those responsible for past violence.
But last week, eight local and international rights groups said they were worried about “the lack of accountability for the extrajudicial executions that have taken place this year, targeting individuals for their peaceful expression”.
The authorities’ “failure” to bring the perpetrators to justice was “perpetuating and further entrenching decades of impunity that have left brave individuals without the most basic protection”, the groups said, which included Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW).
HRW on Tuesday cited the recent case of Arshad Heibat Fakhry. The 31-year-old has not been heard from since he was detained by unidentified armed men in November.
The New York-based rights group said al-Kadhimi’s government “has precious little to show for these promises, and disappearances have continued”.