Two Iraq protesters killed as anti-government unrest persists

Iraqi protesters rush to catch a tear gas canisters fired by security forces during clashes following an anti-government demonstration in Al-Khilani square in the capital Baghdad, on January 26, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 27 January 2020

Two Iraq protesters killed as anti-government unrest persists

  • The unidentified gunmen fired on protesters, killing 1 and wounding 4 others
  • The main protest camp in the holy city of Najaf was also burned down overnight by unidentified gunmen

BAGHDAD: Unidentified gunmen shot dead two protesters in the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya after security forces began a crackdown on months-long demonstrations against the country's largely Iran-backed ruling elite.
At least 75 protesters were wounded, mainly by live bullets, in clashes in Nassiriya overnight when security forces attempted to move them away from bridges in the city, police and health source said.
On Monday morning, clashes resumed in central Baghdad as police fired tear gas at demonstrators, Reuters reporters said.

HIGHLIGHT

The mass protests started in October over widespread government corruption and a lack of public services and jobs.

Hours later, determined protesters had rallied again and shut down two main bridges in the city, some 350 kilometers south of the capital Baghdad.

The main protest camp in the holy city of Najaf was also burned down overnight by unidentified gunmen, AFP’s correspondent there said on Monday.

Mass protests erupted on October 1 in Baghdad and across Iraq’s Shiite-majority south in outrage over lack of jobs, poor services and corruption.

They spiraled into calls for a total government overhaul and are now specifically demanding snap polls, an independent prime minister and the prosecution of anyone implicated in corruption or recent bloodshed.

Protesters tried to ramp up pressure on the government starting a week ago by sealing streets with burning tires and metal barricades, but riot police responded with force.

They fired live rounds and tear gas to disperse clusters of young demonstrators, and 21 protesters have been killed and hundreds wounded in the last week.

That brought the toll from the last four months of rallies close to 480 dead, according to an AFP rally.

On Friday, security forces began moving in on the main protest camps across the country after influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr said he would drop support for the youth-dominated reform campaign.

Sadr supporters swiftly began dismantling their own tents, prompting fears by the remaining activists that they had lost their political cover and would face a crackdown.

But thousands of students turned out Sunday across Iraqi cities to insist on their movement’s resilience and political independence.

Demonstrators have feared that their movement may be eclipsed by tensions between neighboring Iran and the US, which spiraled after the killing early this month of a senior Iranian commander in a US drone strike in Baghdad.

On Sunday evening, three Katyusha rockets slammed into the US embassy in the Iraqi capital, a security source said.

A senior Iraqi official and US diplomatic sources said one person was wounded, but no details were immediately available on whether it was a US national or an Iraqi member of staff at the mission.


Yemen’s terrifying, severely damaged road to Taiz on brink of collapse

Vehicles are pictured on a damaged road, the only travel route between Yemen’s cities of Taiz and Aden. Yemen has been left in ruins by six years of war, where over 24 million people are in need of aid and protection. (AFP)
Updated 18 min 4 sec ago

Yemen’s terrifying, severely damaged road to Taiz on brink of collapse

  • Convoys of vehicles big and small move at a snail’s pace as they squeeze past each other on the narrow road that has been severely damaged over the years by heavy rainfall

TAIZ: Lorries filled to the brim with goods labor up and down the dangerously winding and precipitous road of Hayjat Al-Abed, the mountainous lifeline to Yemen’s third largest city.
Unlike all other routes linking southwest Taiz to the rest of the war-torn country, the road — with its dizzying drop-offs into the valley below — is the only one that has not fallen into the hands of the Houthi rebels.
Some 500,000 inhabitants of the city, which is besieged by the Iran-backed Houthis, depend on the 7-km stretch of crater-filled road for survival, as the long conflict between the insurgents and the government shows no signs of abating.
Convoys of vehicles big and small move at a snail’s pace as they squeeze past each other on the narrow road that has been severely damaged over the years by heavy rainfall.
“As you can see, it is full of potholes, and we face dangerous slopes,” Marwan Al-Makhtary, a young truck driver, told AFP. “Sometimes trucks can no longer move forward, so they stop and roll back.”
Makhtary said nothing was being done to fix the road, and fears are mounting that the inexorable deterioration will ultimately bring the supply of goods to a halt.
Dozens of Taiz residents on Tuesday urged the government to take action, forming a human chain along the road — some of them carrying signs saying: “Save Taiz’s Lifeline.”

NUMBER

500,000 inhabitants of Taiz, which is besieged by the Iran-backed Houthis, depend on the 7-km stretch of crater-filled road for survival.

“We demand the legitimate government and local administration accelerate efforts to maintain and fix the road,” said one of the protesters, Abdeljaber Numan.
“This is the only road that connects Taiz with the outside world, and the blocking of this artery would threaten the city.”
Sultan Al-Dahbaly, who is responsible for road maintenance in the local administration, said the closure of the road would represent a “humanitarian disaster” in a country already in crisis and where the majority of the population is dependent on aid.
“It is considered a lifeline of the city of Taiz, and it must be serviced as soon as possible because about 5 million people (in the province) would be affected,” he told AFP.

Humanitarian aid
Meanwhile, Yemen’s president on Thursday urged his government’s rival, the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, to stop impeding the flow of urgently needed humanitarian aid following a warning from the UN humanitarian chief last week that “the specter of famine” has returned to the conflict-torn country.
President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s plea came in a prerecorded speech to the UN General Assembly’s ministerial meeting being held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It aired more than a week after Human Rights Watch warned that all sides in Yemen’s conflict were interfering with the arrival of food, health care supplies, water and sanitation support.