Iranian Consulate in Basra set on fire

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Iraqi protesters set fire to the Iranian Consulate in Basra on Friday. (AP)
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Iraqi protesters set fire to the Iranian Consulate in Basra on Friday. (AFP)
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Iraqi protesters set fire to the Iranian Consulate in Basra on Friday. (AFP)
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Iraqi protesters set fire to the Iranian Consulate in Basra on Friday. (AP)
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Iraqi protesters set fire to the Iranian Consulate in Basra on Friday. (AP)
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Iraqi protesters are seen near the burnt Iranian Consulate in Basra, Iraq September 7, 2018. (Reuters)
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Iraqi protesters are seen near the burnt Iranian Consulate in Basra, Iraq September 7, 2018. (Reuters)
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Iraqi protesters are seen near the burnt Iranian Consulate in Basra, Iraq September 7, 2018. (Reuters)
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Iraqi protesters are seen near the burnt Iranian Consulate in Basra, Iraq September 7, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 08 September 2018
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Iranian Consulate in Basra set on fire

  • Thousands of demonstrators rallied outside the building while hundreds went inside the consulate and set it ablaze
  • Basra has seen a surge in protests since Tuesday

BASRA: Protesters set fire to the Iranian Consulate in Basra on Friday, after a week of violent protests during which at least nine people were killed.

The building was the latest to be attacked during demonstrations in Iraq’s main oil hub after a summer of unrest fueled by anger at substandard basic services, corruption and a lack of jobs.

The demonstrations escalated this week, stoked by politicians attempting to influence a political standoff in Baghdad between the pro and anti-Iranian blocs in Parliament.

Friday had been mostly calm until evening approached, when protesters again went on the rampage. The Iranian Consulate in the south-east of the city was targeted and the outer walls set on fire. It not immediately clear how badly it was damaged or whether protesters had made it inside, although some reports said the building had been stormed.

The previous night, protesters set fire to the offices of dozens of political factions and their associated television stations. The demonstrators threatened to burn more if the leaders of the parties tried to intervene in the protests or hijack them for their own ends, local advocates and officials said.

The protests, which began in June, initially were prompted by anger over inadequate electricity supplies but this week they have been focused on the lack of clean water.


They turned violent when security forces fired live bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters who were attempting to break into a local government building in central Basra, attacking troops outside with Molotov cocktails. Two demonstrators were seriously wounded, and one of them died hours later.

On Tuesday evening, the demonstrations were even more violent, as one of the protesters attacked a group of Iraqi security forces with a hand grenade, killing one officer and wounding others. A separate group of demonstrators attacked troops with Molotov cocktails. In both attacks, the troops responded by firing live bullets and tear gas.

By the end of the night, several government buildings were on fire, and at least nine protesters had been shot dead. In addition, 93 people were wounded, including dozens of members of the security services, medics and police, sources said. 

There was less violence during Thursday evening’s protests after the federal authorities in Baghdad issued orders to all forces in Basra not to clash with the demonstrators as long as they were nowhere close to oil installations, according to local security officials.

The demonstrators changed their targets from local-government buildings to the headquarters of political parties and their media wings. More than 20 offices and local TV stations were attacked, including the headquarters of some of the most prominent Shiite armed factions, including Badr organization and Assaib Ahl Al-Haq.

“We burned these headquarters to tell them that we can do it. Burning their headquarters is just the beginning,” said one of the organizers of the demonstrations.

“By burning their offices, we just sent them a message saying that the security forces and the governmental buildings are not our target — you (the political parties) are our target.”

Basra contains Iraq’s biggest oil fields and the revenues from its crude exports represent the backbone of the Iraqi economy. Destabilizing the security of the city is in the interest of many regional and local parties. The events there this week coincide with a conflict in Baghdad as Iraqi political forces loyal to Iran and those loyal to the United States compete to gain more influence in the negotiations to form the next government.

Clerics in Najaf, envoys and international organizations in Iraq have called for calm and for the security forces to avoid using excessive force against demonstrators.

Muqtada Al-Sadr, one of the most influential Shiite clerics, on Thursday called on outgoing Prime Minister Haider Abadi to accelerate the disbursement of funds required to finance water and electricity projects in Basra, and address the demands of the people of the province.

Also on Friday, demonstrators returned to stage a sit-in protest in Abdul Karim Qasim square in central Basra. Groups of them also began to clear nearby streets of the debris from the previous days’ protests. Videos circulated by activists on Friday showed hundreds of young people collecting waste from the streets in large, yellow containers, while others played music or held small banners with the words: “This is the ethics of the people of Basra.”

“We have decided to stop for a while to give the local and central governments a chance to respond to our demands,” said Kadhim Al-Sahlani, a local activist in Basra.

“For now, we will continue our sit-in until further notice, but if the troops attack us again or something happens, we will deal with the developments one by one.”


Is a spate of terror incidents in Egypt a ‘last dance’ for militants or a failure in security operations

Updated 3 min 10 sec ago
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Is a spate of terror incidents in Egypt a ‘last dance’ for militants or a failure in security operations

  • Some have speculated that the sudden spate of incidents is the militants lashing out to spoil the image that Egypt is returning to stability

CAIRO: Three terrorist attacks in the space of as many days have raised questions over whether the Egyptian security forces have brought extremist militancy in the country under control.

The attacks between Friday and Monday came after a period of relative calm. The Egyptian military has been involved in an extensive operation against terrorist groups in their stronghold in the Sinai Peninsula for more than a year. Police forces have also been carrying out operations against cells in a large number of governorates.

The first of the three incidents was a failed attempt to plant a bomb near security forces in Cairo on Friday. On Saturday, however, a massive blast killed 14 members of the military on a security mission near El-Arish in Sinai.
The third bombing on Monday could have been just as deadly. A suicide bomber blew himself up after he was chased by police in the densely populated Al-Hussein district of Cairo near Al-Azhar Mosque. In the end three officers were killed.
The attacks came after months of relative calm in an insurgency that began after the Muslim Brotherhood president Muhammad Mursi was removed from power in 2012.
Since then, militants have targeted the Egyptian security forces, churches, coptic Christians, tourists and ordinary Egyptians, killing hundreds.
In November 2017, gunmen carried out the deadliest terror attack in Egyptian history — killing more than 300 people at a Sufi mosque in northern Sinai.

In response, the military launched a vast operation in February last year to “eliminate terrorism in Egypt.” The operation is ongoing.

Some have speculated that the sudden spate of incidents is the militants lashing out to spoil the image that Egypt is returning to stability.

“[Terrorists] want to give Egypt a bad image to foreigners living abroad, on order to make a point. They want to abort the democratic reform process that Egypt’s been implementing in the past period,” MP Mohamed Maher Hamed told Arab News.

Author and political analyst Walid Qutb said Egypt is keen to host more important regional and international events and forums, including the African Nations football tournament, and a drop in terror-related incidents is key to this.

He said the return of terrorist operations at this time is an attempt to send a clear message that Egypt is not a safe country. What the extremists have done recently is a final dance and lost, Qutb said.
But political analyst Nabil Omar told Arab News that the elimination of terrorism requires more than just maintaining security forces.
There needs to be improved education and the spreading of correct information to improve the mentality of Egyptians, he said.
“I don’t think that the return of terrorist operations happening currently is linked to changes in politics in Egypt,” Omar said. “It has nothing to do with how well security is either. “Terrorist attacks are happening because the terrorists in question have decided to do so.”
The recent incidents in Cairo are both strange, Omar said. They targeted police forces in locations packed with civilians.
This could mean that terrorists want their attacks to be even bigger and deadlier, even if that comes at the cost of the innocent or unarmed.
“The positive thing here is that these recent terrorist attacks came after a long period of silence. During that period of time, the Egyptian military had the upper hand in relation to the terrorists – who used to be more in control before,” Omar said.
The attacks came after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi described to the Munich Security Summit this week the Egyptian experience in regards to terrorism.