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. 


US military strengthens deployment in Syria

A US military vehicle patrols near the Rumaylan oil fields in Syria’s northeastern Hasakeh province, as Washington stepped up its military deployment in the area. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2020

US military strengthens deployment in Syria

  • Several incidents in recent weeks have pitted the US military against Russian forces now deployed along the Turkish border under an agreement with Ankara

WASHINGTON: The US Army announced on Friday it was stepping up its military deployment — both troops and equipment — in northeastern Syria despite a push to limit its presence there, a move that follows tensions with Russia in the region.
US Central Command (Centcom) “has deployed Sentinel radar, increased the frequency of US fighter patrols over US forces, and deployed Bradley Fighting Vehicles to augment US forces” in the area, which is controlled by the US and its Kurdish allies, spokesman Captain Bill Urban said in a statement.
The number of armored vehicles sent as reinforcement did not exceed half a dozen, and “less than 100 people” were sent to maneuver them, a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
Without mentioning Russia, Urban said the moves were meant “to help ensure the safety and security of coalition forces,” and that the US “does not seek conflict with any other nation in Syria, but will defend coalition forces if necessary.”
The US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said however that the actions “are a clear signal to Russia to adhere to mutual de-confliction processes and for Russia and other parties to avoid unprofessional, unsafe and provocative actions in northeast Syria.”
US Bradley Fighting Vehicles were pulled out of the region last October by President Donald Trump, who tried in early 2019 to recall all US troops from Syria, before agreeing to leave a few hundred to protect oil wells.
Several incidents in recent weeks have pitted the US military against Russian forces now deployed along the Turkish border under an agreement with Ankara.
At the end of August, seven American soldiers were injured in a collision with a Russian vehicle.
Videos posted on Twitter, apparently filmed by witnesses and the Russians themselves, showed Russian armor and helicopters attempting to block American vehicles and then force them out of the area.

HIGHLIGHT

Several incidents in recent weeks have pitted the US military against Russian forces now deployed along the Turkish border under an agreement with Ankara.

The tanks were flown in from a base in Kuwait, anti-militant coalition spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto said in another statement.
US and Russian troops frequently interact in Syria, but confrontations have been rare.
Meanwhile, the Syrian regime criticized the Netherlands on Saturday for launching a new bid through international bodies to hold it responsible for alleged gross human rights violations.
A Foreign Ministry source quoted by state news agency SANA accused the Netherlands of abusing its position as host of a number of the bodies concerned.
“The Dutch government ... is determined to use the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to serve the political agendas of its American master,” the ministry source said.
The source accused the Netherlands of doing so “in a flagrant violation of its obligations and commitments as the headquarters state of this international organization.”
On Friday, the Dutch government announced that it was pursuing all legal avenues to ensure that the Syrian regime was held to account for its human rights record.
An attempt to refer top Syrian government officials to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for prosecution was blocked by Chinese and Russian vetoes in May 2014.
But the Dutch government said that, if arbitration failed, it would pursue action through an international court, the most likely being the ICJ, also in The Hague.
Unlike the ICC, which deals with cases against individuals, the ICJ deals with disputes between UN member states and breaches of UN treaties, and is the world body’s top judicial organ.
Syria signed the UN Convention against Torture in 2004 and the Dutch government said its legal action would focus on alleged breaches of that treaty.
The US and the EU have targeted numerous figures linked to the Damascus regime with economic sanctions since the civil war erupted in 2011.
But concerted international action has been blocked by deep divisions over the conflict.
The war has killed more than 380,000 people and driven millions from their homes since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.