2 killed, dozens wounded as Iraq protests hit second week

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Iraqi riot police prevent protesters from storming the provincial council building during a demonstration in Basra, 340 miles (550 km) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, July 15, 2018. (AP Photo)
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People gather during a protest near the main provincial government building in Basra, Iraq, on July 15, 2018. (EUTERS/Essam al-Sudani)
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People run from tear gas during a protest near the main provincial government building in Basra, Iraq on July 15, 2018. (REUTERS/Essam al-Sudani)
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Protesters gather near the main provincial government building in Basra, Iraq July 15, 2018. (REUTERS/Essam al-Sudani)
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Protesters burn tires during a demonstration against unemployment and a lack of basic services in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on July 15, 2018. (AFP / Haidar Mohammed Ali)
Updated 16 July 2018
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2 killed, dozens wounded as Iraq protests hit second week

  • Protests demanding jobs and better public services have swept southern Iraq
  • Foreign airlines including Oman Air, flydubai and Royal Jordanian have all suspended flights

BASRA, Iraq:  Two demonstrators were killed and dozens more were wounded in southern Iraq on Sunday as protests over unemployment and a lack of basic services entered a second week, a medical source said.
The protesters were killed in a shooting in the city of Samawah, south of the capital Baghdad, the source told AFP.
A further 27 people were injured in the incident in front of the governor’s headquarters, the source said without detailing who opened fire.
In Baghdad hundreds of protesters closed a highway at the entrance to the city’s northwestern Shula neighborhood, chanting “Iran, out out! Baghdad is free!” and “The people want to overthrow the regime.”
Demonstrations hit several provinces including Basra, despite Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announcing fresh funds and pledges of investment for the oil-rich but neglected region.
Renewed clashes between security forces and protesters in Basra city left 50 people injured near the governor’s headquarters, the majority protesters, a separate medical source said.
The Internet was out of service across the country on Sunday for the second consecutive day.
Earlier on Sunday demonstrators tried to storm the Basra governor’s headquarters but were dispersed by police who fired tear gas at them, an AFP reporter said.
Police also fired tear gas at stone-throwing demonstrators who tried to push their way into the Zubeir oil field south of the city, an AFP reporter said.
In Nasiriyah, provincial capital of neighboring Dhi Qar province, 15 demonstrators and 25 policemen were injured, deputy health director Abdel Hussein Al-Jabri said.
The clashes, including hand-to-hand combat, erupted when the demonstrators gathered outside the governor’s office and pelted security forces with stones.
In Muthana province bordering Basra, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the governor’s headquarters and some torched parts of the building, a police source said.
Protesters in Muthana also set fire to the offices of the Iranian-backed Badr organization in the province’s largest city of Samawa.
On Saturday, protesters had set alight Badr’s headquarters in Basra, prompting authorities to impose an overnight curfew across the province.
As the protests continued Abadi met with security and intelligence chiefs in the capital Baghdad on Sunday, warning them to be on alert “because terrorists want to exploit any event or dispute.”
“Iraqis do not accept chaos, assaults on the security forces, state and private property, and those who do this are vandals who exploit the demands of citizens to cause harm,” he said.
The prime minister also ordered security services not to use live fire against the unarmed protesters.
The unrest erupted on July 8 when security forces opened fire, killing one person, as youths demonstrated in Basra demanding jobs and accusing the government of failing to provide basic services including electricity.
Two protesters died from gunshot wounds following rallies overnight Friday, although it was not clear who killed them.
At least 30 people were wounded on Saturday night in the central holy city of Karbala, where an AFP reporter said police fired into the air as demonstrators threw stones at them.
The demonstrations have also led to international flights to the shrine city of Najaf being canceled, as the airport was closed after dozens of protesters forced their way into the waiting room Friday despite a heavy police presence.
Foreign airlines including Oman Air, flydubai and Royal Jordanian have all announced the suspension of flights.
The government’s media office said Abadi has ordered the airport to reopen, without giving further details.
Protests continued Sunday morning in Najaf city, where an AFP correspondent said security forces dispersed a large demonstration.
A sizable contingent from Saraya Al-Salam, a paramilitary force loyal to prominent Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr who won May elections, also deployed in the streets of Najaf.
The protests — which have spread north to Baghdad — come as Iraq struggles to rebuild after three-year war against Daesh group jihadists, which has ravaged their country’s infrastructure.
On Saturday evening, Abadi announced investment worth $3 billion (2.6 billion euros) for Basra province, as well as pledging additional spending on housing, schools and services.
“When the state responds to citizens’ demands it is a strength, not a weakness,” Abadi said during Sunday’s meeting with top officials.
The country has been rocked by a series of conflicts since the 1980s and says it needs $88 billion to rebuild after the war on IS jihadists.
Officially, 10.8 percent of Iraqis are jobless, while youth unemployment is twice as high, in a country where 60 percent of the population is aged under 24.
The oil sector accounts for 89 percent of the state budget and 99 percent of Iraq’s export revenues, but only one percent of jobs, as the majority of posts are filled by foreigners.


Iran video threatens missile strikes on UAE, Saudi Arabia

Updated 4 min 6 sec ago
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Iran video threatens missile strikes on UAE, Saudi Arabia

TEHRAN: An Iranian media outlet close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) published a video on Tuesday threatening the capitals of Saudi Arabia and the UAE with missile attacks.
The video tweeted and later deleted by the semi-official Fars news agency comes as Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed Riyadh and Abu Dhabi for an attack on a military parade in the city of Ahvaz on Saturday.
The video shows file footage of previous ballistic missile attacks launched by the Guard, then a graphic of a sniper rifle scope homing in on Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The video also threatened Israel.
"The era of the hit-and-run has expired," Khamenei's voice is heard in the video, the segment taken from an April speech by the supreme leader. "A heavy punishment is underway."
Iran has fired its ballistic missiles twice in anger in recent years. In 2017, responding to an Daesh attack on Tehran, the IRGC fired missiles striking targets in Syria. Then, earlier this month, it launched a strike on a meeting of Iranian Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq.
The IRGC, a paramilitary force answerable only to Khamenei, has sole control over Iran's ballistic missile program.
Under Khamenei's orders, Iran now limits its ballistic missiles to a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles), which gives Tehran the range to strike Israel, Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as regional American military bases.
Saturday's attack targeted one of many parades in Iran marking the start of the country's long 1980s war with Iraq, part of a commemoration known as "Sacred Defense Week." Militants disguised as soldiers opened fire as rows of troops marched past officials in Ahvaz.
Arab separatists in the region claimed the attack and Iranian officials have blamed them for the assault. The separatists accuse Iran's government of discriminating against its ethnic Arab minority. Iran's Khuzestan province, where Ahvaz is the provincial capital, also has seen recent protests over Iran's nationwide drought, as well as economic protests.
Daesh also claimed Saturday's attack, initially offering incorrect information about it and later publishing a video of three men it identified as the attackers. The men in the video, however, did not pledge allegiance or otherwise identify themselves as Daesh followers.
Iranian state TV reported that authorities have detained 22 people linked to the group behind the attack and confiscated ammunition and communication equipment. Fars also reported that five militants took part in the assault, all of whom were killed. It said two of them were brothers and another one was their cousin.
On Monday, the IRGC's acting commander, Gen. Hossein Salami, vowed revenge against the perpetrators and what he called the "triangle" of Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States.
"You are responsible for these actions; you will face the repercussions," the general said. "We warn all of those behind the story, we will take revenge."
Khamenei said Monday that the attack showed Iran has "a lot of enemies." He linked the attackers to the United States, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
"Definitely, we will harshly punish the operatives" behind the terror attack, he said.