Protests resume in Iraq’s Sadr City as uprising enters second week - GulfToday

Protests resume in Iraq’s Sadr City as uprising enters second week

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Iraqi security forces chase anti-government protesters in Baghdad, Iraq, on Sunday. AP

Protests resumed overnight in Baghdad's Sadr City district, with at least one member of the security forces killed, although much of the country appeared quieter than it has been for a week as politicians sought a way to end a nationwide uprising.

Iraq's military said on Tuesday one member of an Interior Ministry force was killed and four wounded when they came under fire from unknown assailants in Sadr City, where 15 people died the previous night in riots.

More than 110 Iraqis have died and 6,000 have been wounded in the past week as protesters calling for the removal of the government and an end to corruption have clashed with the security forces, mainly in Baghdad and the south.

The violence has been the worst to hit Iraq since it put down an insurgency by the Daesh group nearly two years ago, and the biggest test for Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, in office for a year.

The spread of the violence to Sadr City this week could escalate the security challenge posed by the protests. Unrest has historically been hard to put down in the district, where around a third of Baghdad's 8 million people live with little electricity or water and few jobs.

Protesters gathered there after nightfall, including the families of slain protesters, local police sources told Reuters.

They set fire to tires outside the municipal council building and courthouse in Mudhaffar Square, police said. Police said the gunfire that targeted the security forces was fired from a crowd of protesters.

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Motorists pass by a fire lit by anti-government protesters in BaghdadKhalid Mohammed / AP

Protesters say they have come under attack by members of the security forces using live ammunition throughout the week. Reuters journalists have witnessed protesters being killed and wounded by snipers firing from rooftops into crowds.

The state buyer falls under the trade ministry and holds regular international purchasing tenders to import wheat and rice for the rationing programme, which covers flour, cooking oil, rice, sugar and baby milk formula. The programme was first created in 1991 to combat U.N. economic sanctions.

Iraqis have taken to the streets in the last six days to protest poor living conditions which they blame on what they see as corrupt leaders.

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Smoke rises from burning tyres in Baghdad. Ahmad Al Rubaye / AFP

The cabinet's new plan may not be enough to placate protesters and the politicians who've sided with them.

Opposition to the government among parliamentary blocs who have begun boycotting legislative meetings is already brewing, adding pressure on Abdul Mahdi and his cabinet to step down.

Influential Iraqi cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, who has a mass popular following and controls a large chunk of parliament, demanded on Friday that the government resign and snap elections be held.

At least one other major parliamentary grouping allied itself with Sadr against the government.

But powerful political parties which have dominated Iraqi politics since the 2003 US-led invasion and toppling of dictator Saddam Hussein have not indicated they are willing to relinquish the institutions they control.

In eastern Baghdad on Friday and Saturday, police snipers shot at demonstrators and several people were wounded, Reuters reporters said.

The unrest is the deadliest Iraq has seen since the declared defeat of Daesh in 2017 and has shaken Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi's year-old government. Iraqis fear the violence will continue to escalate.

The violence continued as people began journeying across southern Iraq for the Shi'ite pilgrimage of Arbaeen, which is expected to attract 20 million worshippers.

Reuters