More deaths in Baghdad as anti-government protests continue

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Anti-government protesters run for cover while Iraqi security forces fire tear gas during a demonstration in central Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. (AP)
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Demonstrators carry a man who fainted from the effect of tear gas during a protest over corruption, lack of jobs, and poor services in Baghdad on Friday, October 25, 2019. (Reuters)
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Iraqi security forces fire tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters during a demonstration in central Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. (AP)
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Iraqi protestors take part in anti-government demonstrations in the southern city of Basra on October 25, 2019. (AFP)
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Iraqi protestors take part in anti-government demonstrations in the southern city of Basra on October 25, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 26 October 2019

More deaths in Baghdad as anti-government protests continue

  • The fire at the Badr organization’s offices was the deadliest incident yet on Friday
  • Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani urged protesters to use “restraint” to stop the demos descending into “chaos”

BAGHDAD: Protests continued in Baghdad and seven southern Shiite-dominated provinces on Friday, as thousands of Iraqis demanded the resignation of the government, that Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi stand trial, changes to election laws, and early national parliamentary elections
At least 40 people were killed and about 2,300 wounded, including members of the security forces, when Iraqi forces and guards used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowds that had gathered at government buildings in Baghdad and local government and political party offices in the provinces, medics and police sources told Arab News. They added that 50 government and party properties had been set on fire by the end of Friday. A full curfew was imposed in many southern provinces.
The demonstrations began on Oct. 1 in protest against corruption, high unemployment and the poor quality of basic daily services. They continued for six consecutive days but were interrupted when the Iraqi government and its allies led brutal crackdowns on demonstrators, which left at least 147 people dead, including security forces, and more than 7,000 injured.
The protesters returned to the streets on Thursday night, however, after government and parliamentary promises to back their legitimate demands and that they would not be fired upon.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Tahrir Square in central Baghdad on Friday. Many carried Iraqi flags and shouted slogans such as “Spirit in blood, we redeem you, Iraq” and “No, no to corruption.” Others shouted “Iran, out out” and “Neither America nor Iran, those people are all brothers.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• At least 40 people killed and about 2,000 wounded as renewed demonstrations continue for second day.

• Demands of protesters are growing, including call for Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to face trial.

Most roads and bridges in Baghdad remained open except those leading to the Green Zone, where most of the government offices and foreign missions are located. Riot police used water cannons and tear gas to push back demonstrators who tried to cross Al-Jumhoriya Bridge toward this area. As promised, security forces did not fire on the crowds with live ammunition but still eight people were killed and hundreds injured during the confrontation, including members of the security forces, the Iraqi Independent High Commission for Human Rights said on Friday evening.
A number of factors have caused the demonstrators to increase their demands, according to observers and political analysts. These include the high toll of dead and injured during the first week of protests; Abdul Mahdi’s failure to provide convincing answers about the identity of masked gunmen who took to the streets and executed protesters, in full view of the Iraqi security services; the prime minister’s “prosthetic” solutions to grievances, which focus on providing tens of thousands of jobs without any indication of how this will be financed; and promises of political and governmental reforms that cannot be fulfilled given the current political alliances that are in place.
“When we first took to the streets, we were protesting against corruption, unemployment and lack of services, but after the repression we faced and after killing dozens of our comrades, the demands have changed,” said Alla’a Al-Sebihawi, a 26-year-old protester in Baghdad.
“Our demands now are to dismiss Mahdi and bring him to trial. This man mocks us and the blood of the martyrs. His speeches all are hallucinations and nonproductive. Our slogan today is the trial of Abdel Mahdi. It is a fair demand.”


German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

Updated 24 November 2020

German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

  • Germany insists it acted correctly in boarding a Turkish ship to enforce arms embargo of Libya
  • Turkey summoned European diplomats to complain at the operation

BERLIN: Germany’s defense minister on Tuesday rejected Turkey’s complaints over the search of a Turkish freighter in the Mediterranean Sea by a German frigate participating in a European mission, insisting that German sailors acted correctly.
Sunday’s incident prompted Turkey to summon diplomats representing the European Union, Germany and Italy and assert that the Libya-bound freighter Rosaline-A was subjected to an “illegal” search by personnel from the German frigate Hamburg. The German ship is part of the European Union’s Irini naval mission, which is enforcing an arms embargo against Libya.
German officials say that the order to board the ship came from Irini’s headquarters in Rome and that Turkey protested while the team was on board. The search was then ended.
Turkey says the search was “unauthorized and conducted by force.”
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer backed the German crew’s actions.
“It is important to me to make really clear that the Bundeswehr soldiers behaved completely correctly,” she said during an appearance in Berlin. “They did what is asked of them in the framework of the European Irini mandate.”
“That there is this debate with the Turkish side points to one of the fundamental problems of this European mission,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added, without elaborating. “But it is very important to me to say clearly here that there are no grounds for these accusations that are now being made against the soldiers.”
This was the second incident between Turkey and naval forces from a NATO ally enforcing an arms blockade against Libya.
In June, NATO launched an investigation over an incident between Turkish warships and a French naval vessel in the Mediterranean, after France said one of its frigates was “lit up” three times by Turkish naval targeting radar when it tried to approach a Turkish civilian ship suspected of involvement in arms trafficking.
Turkey supports a UN-backed government in Tripoli against rival forces based in the country’s east. It has complained that the EU naval operation focuses its efforts too much on the Tripoli administration and turns a blind eye to weapons sent to the eastern-based forces.
In Ankara, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Irini was “flawed from the onset.”
“It is not based on firm international legal foundations,” Akar said. He renewed Turkey’s criticism of the German ship’s actions.
“The incident was against international laws and practices. It was wrong,” he said.
Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed that “Turkey is still an important partner for us in NATO.” Turkey being outside the military alliance would make the situation even more difficult, she argued, and Turkish soldiers are “absolutely reliable partners” in NATO missions.
But she conceded that Turkey poses “a big challenge” because of how its domestic politics have developed and because it has its “own agenda, which is difficult to reconcile with European questions in particular.”