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

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. 


At least 13 people drown in migrant shipwreck off Libya

Updated 14 min 34 sec ago

At least 13 people drown in migrant shipwreck off Libya

  • The boat had set off from the town of Zliten, east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli
  • The Libyan Coast Guard said that it had ordered the rescue, and that search teams were scouring the area

CAIRO: Over a dozen migrants trying to reach Europe drowned in the Mediterranean Sea when their small dinghy capsized off the coast of Libya, the United Nations reported Friday, the latest shipwreck to underscore the deadly risks facing those who flee the war-afflicted North African country.
Libyan fishermen spotted the sinking boat late Thursday, said the International Organization for Migration, and managed to pull 22 people from the water, including those from Egypt, Bangladesh, Syria, Somalia and Ghana.
But at least 13 of the other passengers were missing and presumed drowned. Three dead bodies were found floating in the water, including one Syrian man and woman. The boat had set off from the town of Zliten, east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, late on Wednesday.
The Libyan Coast Guard said that it had ordered the rescue, and that search teams were scouring the area for more victims.
“So many boats are leaving these days, but autumn is a very difficult season,” said Commodore Masoud Abdal Samad. “When it gets windy, it’s deadly. It changes in an instant.”
Following the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants hoping to get to Europe from Africa and the Middle East. Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and founder along the perilous Central Mediterranean route. At least 20,000 people have died in those waters since 2014, according to the UN
Those who survived Friday’s disaster were taken to the Tripoli port, where they received medical care for their burns, a common consequence of leaked engine fuel mixing with saltwater, said Safa Msehli, an IOM spokeswoman.
Libyan authorities shepherded the survivors to the Zliten detention center, run by the Tripoli-based government’s Interior Ministry. Migrants rescued at sea and returned to Libya routinely land in detention centers notorious for torture, extortion and abuse. Amnesty International revealed in a report Thursday that thousands of migrants have been forcibly disappeared from unofficial militia-run detention centers.
The shipwreck, the second to be recorded by the UN in as many weeks, “signals the need now more than ever for state-led search and rescue capacity to be redeployed and the need to support NGO vessels operating in a vacuum,” said Msehli.
Since 2017, European countries, particularly Italy, have delegated most search-and-rescue responsibility to the Libyan Coast Guard, which intercepts migrant boats before they can reach European waters. Activists have lamented that European authorities are increasingly blocking the work of nongovernmental rescue organizations that patrol the Mediterranean and seek to disembark at European ports.