Iraqi cleric linked to Basra protests killed

Protesters wave national flags and chant slogans during a demonstration demanding better public services and jobs in Basra. (AP)
Updated 18 November 2018
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Iraqi cleric linked to Basra protests killed

  • Wissam Al-Ghrawi was a prominent figure in demonstrations in recent months demanding clean water and reliable electricity in Basra
  • Al-Ghrawi was shot and killed in front of his house in the city center by unknown assailants

BASRA, Iraq: Hundreds of Basra residents mourned a Muslim cleric on Sunday who police said was killed outside his home after he suggested that protesters should take up arms over poor public services in the city.
Wissam Al-Ghrawi was a prominent figure in demonstrations demanding clean water and reliable electricity in the southern Iraqi city. Basra province generates more than 90 percent of Iraq’s oil exports but suffers from contaminated drinking water and regular blackouts.
Basra police say Al-Ghrawi was shot and killed in front of his house in the city center by unknown assailants late Saturday.
He was filmed at a protest on Friday saying clerics would issue a fatwa within days on taking up arms. The video was shared widely on Iraqi social media.
Associates and relatives of Al-Ghrawi paraded his coffin around parts of the city on Sunday, demanding the police identify the killers and bring them to justice.
“Why was Sheikh Wissam Al-Ghrawi killed? Because he asked for clean water? Because he asked for jobs for the unemployed? Is this the price he paid for defending his country?” said civic activist Mohanad Al-Ghrawi, a distant relative of the deceased cleric.
Al-Ghrawi is at least the second activist to be killed in what appeared to be a targeted assassination since protests swept Basra last summer. One of the organizers, Soad Al-Ali, was killed by a gunman in September, after protesters began directing their ire toward Iran, which they saw as exerting undue influence over national politics.
Demonstrators set fire to the Iranian consulate and attacked the headquarters of the various Iran-backed militias and parties that operate with impunity in the city. Most of the city’s official government buildings were torched, as well.
Police said Al-Ali’s killing was over a personal matter.
Suspicions again turned toward the militias, collectively known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, on Sunday.
“We say here, once again, to the Basra security and police — have you done your job to stop these militias that kill the youth and intellectuals?” said Mohanad Al-Ghrawi.
“Anyone who speaks up is threatened with exile, arrest, or killing,” said activist Naqeeb Al-Louaibi, who moved to Baghdad from Basra in October after receiving threats to his life.
The PMF were integral to Iraq’s war against Daesh earlier this decade and paid salaries to hundreds of thousands of fighters, many of whom were drawn from Iraq’s impoverished southern provinces.
But with the war declared won late last year, attention has turned to Iraq’s high unemployment and decaying infrastructure. Demonstrations erupted in the south last summer after regular blackouts appeared to grow worse and, in Basra, murky water began flowing out of taps. Health authorities said tens of thousands of residents were hospitalized in the summer months for stomach illnesses.


US to leave 200 troops in Syria for a period of time - White House

A small peacekeeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria. (US Army photo)
Updated 47 min 26 sec ago
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US to leave 200 troops in Syria for a period of time - White House

  • The decision was announced after Trump spoke by phone to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan

WASHINGTON: The United States will leave “a small peacekeeping group” of 200 American troops in Syria for a period of time after a US pullout, the White House said on Thursday.
President Donald Trump in December ordered a withdrawal of the 2,000 American troops in Syria on the defeat of the last remnants of the Islamic State militancy there.
But he has been under pressure from some advisers to adjust his policy to ensure the protection of Kurdish forces who supported the fight against Islamic State and who might now be threatened by Turkey.
“A small peacekeeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for a period of time,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a brief statement.
The decision was announced after Trump spoke by phone to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
A White House statement said that the two leaders agreed, regarding Syria, to “continue coordinating on the creation of a potential safe zone.”
They noted that acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford would be hosting their Turkish counterparts in Washington this week for further talks, the White House said.