Iraq authorities lift curfew after Basra airport targeted by rocket fire earlier

The attack followed a chaotic night that saw hundreds of angry protesters storm and set fire to the Iranian consulate and other Iranian interests in Basra. (File/AFP)
Updated 08 September 2018
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Iraq authorities lift curfew after Basra airport targeted by rocket fire earlier

  • The official says it was not clear who was behind the Saturday morning attack
  • No casualties were reported

BASRA, Iraq: Basra airport was targeted by rocket fire on Saturday after a night of protests over perceived misrule by Iraq's political elite during which demonstrators torched the Iranian consulate and briefly took oilfield workers hostage.
Iraqi security sources said three Katyusha rockets fired by unknown assailants had hit the perimeter of the airport, although no damage or casualties had been reported. The US Consulate is adjacent to Basra's airport.
An official at the Iraqi airport said there was no disruption to operations, and flights were taking off and landing as normal.
The attack came shortly after a citywide curfew was lifted and hours after the reopening of Iraq's main seaport of Umm Qasr where protesters had blocked the port's entrance, forcing a halt to all operations.

However, Iraqi officials in Basra lifted the curfew on Saturday night, the military said.
The streets of Basra were calm on Saturday, after days of violent protests had rocked Iraq's southern oil hub.
Organizers of the demonstrations said they would pause on Saturday, but there was still a heavy security force presence in the city of more than 2 million people. 

Basra, Iraq's second biggest city located in the country's Shiite heartland, has been roiled by five days of deadly demonstrations, in which government buildings have been ransacked and set alight by protesters angry over political corruption. Protests first erupted in July over poor government services, but intensified this week.
On Friday, protesters broke into the Iranian consulate's offices, shouting condemnation of what many perceive as Iran's sway over Iraq's political affairs, and set it alight. Iran and Iraq both strongly condemned the move, raising fears of possible retribution.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who held an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday hours before parliament was due to convene an emergency session to discuss the crisis, said in a statement that he had ordered an investigation into the security forces “for not fulfilling their duties” in protecting government buildings and the Iranian consulate.
 

Water protest
The unrest has thrust Iraq into a major crisis at a time when politicians still have yet to agree a new government after an inconclusive election in May. The new parliament finally met for the first time on Monday, but broke up after a day having failed to elect a speaker, much less name a new prime minister.
Organizers of the demonstrations said they would pause protests on Saturday following the evening's escalation, while additional security forces have been deployed as backup.
Residents in Basra, a city of more than 2 million people, say they have been driven to the streets by corruption and misrule that allowed infrastructure to collapse, leaving no power or safe drinking water in the heat of summer.
They say the water supply has become contaminated with salt, making them vulnerable and desperate in the hot summer months, and thousands of people have been hospitalized from drinking it.
Three protesters died on Friday and 48 more were wounded, 26 of whom were shot, sources said, while 2 members of the security force were wounded.
At least 13 protesters have died, some in clashes with security forces, since Monday and dozens more have been wounded, the Basra Health directorate and local health sources said. 


Turkey launches new gas drillship amid tensions with Cyprus

Updated 33 min 21 sec ago
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Turkey launches new gas drillship amid tensions with Cyprus

  • Turkey’s energy minister boarded the 230-meter (750-foot) vessel, the Yavuz, which can drill to an estimated depth of up to 12,000 meters (40,000 feet), in a ceremony on Thursday
  • EU leaders meeting in Brussels are mulling possible actions against Turkey

ISTANBUL: Turkey has launched a second drillship that will drill for gas off neighboring Cyprus’ east coast despite European Union warnings to refrain from such illegal actions or face sanctions.
Turkey’s energy minister boarded the 230-meter (750-foot) vessel, the Yavuz, which can drill to an estimated depth of up to 12,000 meters (40,000 feet), in a ceremony on Thursday.
Another Turkish drillship is already drilling 40 miles off EU member Cyprus’ west coast in waters where the ethnically divided island nation has exclusive economic rights. The Cypriot government condemned the Turkish action as a violation of international law and its sovereign rights.
EU leaders meeting in Brussels are mulling possible actions against Turkey. Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said that his country would defend its rights and those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots to the area’s energy reserves “until the end” and would continue drilling “without interruptions.” Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence.
In a dig at the 28-member EU, Donmez said Turkey rejects “attempts by actors from outside the region to delineate” the eastern Mediterranean.
He said the Yavuz will be drilling off Cyprus’ eastern coast in coming months.
Cyprus has divided its exclusive economic zone off its southern coast into 13 blocks, or areas. Turkey, which doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a state, says parts of three blocks off the island’s west coast fall within its own continental shelf. Turkish Cypriots claim most of seven blocks in the east.
The Cypriot government says any potential gas proceeds will be shared equitably with Turkish Cypriots after a reunification deal is agreed upon and has created a fund into which all such revenues will flow.