Protesters set fire to Iraq parliament’s regional office in Basra

Parliament office in oil-rich province torched following days of inaction by government over killing of two activists.

Basra, Iraq protests
Iraqi demonstrators clash with security forces during anti-government protests in Basra [Essam Al-Sudani/Reuters]

Protesters in the southern Iraqi city of Basra have set fire to the parliament’s local office as security forces fired live rounds in the air to disperse them, reports said.

At least eight security personnel were injured in the clashes, Ali al-Bayati, spokesman for the semi-official Independent High Commission for Human Rights, told The Associated Press news agency on Friday.

The protesters had gathered to demand that Iraq’s parliament sack the provincial governor after two activists were killed and others wounded in three separate attacks by unknown gunmen this week.

Security forces opened fire while the protesters lobbed petrol bombs.

Demonstrators burned the outer gate of the entrance to the parliament building in Basra province, an area that produces the lion’s share of the crude exporting country’s oil.

The building holds the local offices of Iraq’s main parliament building in the capital, Baghdad. 

It was the most violent incident in Basra since the October mass anti-government demonstrations when tens of thousands took to the streets to decry government corruption in Baghdad and across the south.

Destabilising protests also erupted in Basra in the summer of 2018.

Activists killed

Activist Reham Yacoub, who had led several women’s marches in the past, was killed on Wednesday and three others were wounded when gunmen, brandishing assault rifles on the back of a motorcycle, opened fire on their car. A second female occupant of the car later died.

It was the third incident in which gunmen targeted anti-government political activists since Tahseen Osama was assassinated last week, prompting street demonstrations lasting three days in which security forces opened live fire on protesters who threw rocks and petrol bombs at the governor’s house and blocked several main roads. Four others had their car fired upon in a separate incident.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi sacked the Basra police and national security chiefs on Monday and ordered an investigation into the violence.

That calmed protesters until Yacoub’s killing brought them back out onto the streets.

Al-Kadhimi took office in May, becoming the third Iraqi head of government in a chaotic 10-week period that followed months of deadly protests in the country, which has been exhausted by decades of sanctions, war, corruption and economic challenges.

Al-Kadhimi is currently on an official visit to the United States to conclude strategic talks expected to shape the future of US-Iraq relations, and the future of the US troop presence in the country.

Iraq PM launches probe over protesters killed

Source: News Agencies