Five protesters killed, dozens injured in clashes in Iraq’s Nasiriyah – sources

Iraqi protesters are pictured next to burning tyres during clashes with police during anti-government demonstrations in the city of Nasiriyah in the Dhi Qar province in southern Iraq on 10 January 2021 (AFP)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — At least five protesters were killed and more than 175 people injured on Friday in clashes between demonstrators and security forces in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, according to Reuters.

A hospital source told Reuters that most died from bullet wounds, noting that about 120 protesters were wounded.

At least 57 members of the security forces were injured, Reuters cited another hospital source and a security source as saying.

The clashes continued on Friday evening after a week of violence that erupted on Sunday when security forces fired to disperse protesters, who were trying to storm the provincial government building using rocks and Molotov cocktails, according to Reuters.

Protesters are demanding the removal of the governor and justice for protesters who have been killed since 2019.

Governor Nazim Waali submitted his resignation letter to Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Friday night, saying he has stepped down to “preserve the blood of the sons of Dhi Qar”.

The head of the National Security Agency, Abdul Ghani al-Asadi, has been appointed interim governor, and has been directed to form a committee to investigate the violence in the province.

Late on Friday Amnesty International said it “verified videos from Nasiriyah that contain clear audio of gunfire and show police firing weapons as well as dead protesters in the streets.”

Ali Bayati, a member of Iraq’s semi-official High Commission for Human Rights, said on twitter that five have been killed and 271 injured including 147 members of the security forces in the last five days.

“The situation is out of control in Nasiriyah and the blood is shedding while the government is watching,” Bayati posted on twitter.

Decades of war, government graft and a dearth of investment have left Iraq’s water, electricity and other public works in a pitiful state.

Many households have only a few hours of mains electricity per day and complain of polluted tap water. The resulting anger has sparked huge protests in the past.

Iraq’s biggest anti-government protests in decades broke out in October 2019 and continued for months, with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis demanding jobs, services and removal of the ruling elite, whom they accused of corruption.

Nearly 600 people were killed, and the protests caused the resignation of Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who took office in May 2020, has pledged justice for activists killed or abused by armed groups. But no prosecutions have occurred so far.

The clashes come just a week before Pope Francis visits Iraq from March 5 to 8. He is due to tour the ancient Mesopotamian site of Ur, only a few kilometers (mile) away from the clashes.

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