Iraq’s Unrest: More than 100 Killed, Gov’t Announces Reforms
By Staff, Agencies
Five days of unrest in Iraq resulted in more than 110 deaths as the government struggled to appease public anger over corruption and unemployment by announcing reforms.
The Interior Ministry announced on Sunday that the clashes led to 104 killed and more than 6,000 wounded in violence since Tuesday but denied government forces had shot directly at demonstrators. The dead included eight members of the security forces.
Shortly after the ministry’s statement, police and medical sources said at least eight people were killed and 25 wounded in new clashes between protesters and police in the eastern Baghdad district of Sadr City. Police, backed by the army, used live rounds and tear gas to disperse the crowds at two separate locations in Sadr City, police said.
The protests pose the biggest security and political challenge for Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s government since it took power a year ago, and have revived fears of a new spiral of violence.
At an emergency Cabinet meeting Saturday night, Abdul-Mahdi’s government agreed a 17-point plan to increase subsidized housing for the poor, stipends for the unemployed and training programs and small loans initiatives for unemployed youth.
The families of those killed during demonstrations last week will also receive handouts and care usually granted to members of the security forces killed during war.
“Amid all of this, I swear to God that my only concern is for the casualties,” Abdul-Mahdi was quoted by state television as saying during the Cabinet meeting.
Details of the plan were disseminated on social media, but there was a continued internet outage across most of the country.
Eighteen people were killed in clashes late Saturday and into early Sunday in the capital Baghdad, the police and medical sources said.
Police also fired live rounds during clashes in the southern city of Nasiriya, and 24 people were wounded in the clashes overnight, including seven policemen, according to security, hospital and morgue sources.
Protesters also torched the headquarters of several political parties in Nasiriya, police said.
These included the headquarters of the powerful Dawa party that dominated Iraq’s government from 2003 until 2018 elections.
Violence also broke out again in Diwaniya, another city south of Baghdad killing at least one person, police said.
Before the renewed clashes, Saturday had been a day of relative calm after authorities lifted a curfew and traffic moved normally in the center of Baghdad. Hundreds of security personnel were deployed in the streets.
“Security forces did all they could to preserve the safety of the protesters and security personnel,” Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Saad Maan said.
The governor of Baghdad province resigned Sunday after accusations by protesters that he failed to improve conditions in the city.
The violence continued as people began journeying across southern Iraq for the Shiite pilgrimage of Arbaeen, which is expected to attract 20 million worshippers.