Security forces in Baghdad, Iraq, opened live fire on anti-government protesters this weekend, leaving two men dead and 26 others injured, Kurdish news agency Rudaw reported on Monday.
“Two protesters were killed in the clashes,” medics confirmed to Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Monday, according to the report. Several Iraqi security forces were also injured in Sunday night’s protests, military spokesman Yehia Rasool confirmed.
“The protesters had begun marching from Tahrir to nearby Tayaran Square chanting about worsening power cuts during a heatwave that has sent temperatures soaring above … (122 degrees Fahrenheit),” Reuters reported. “Security forces tried to contain the march and fired tear gas, according to police, medics, and protesters. The protesters threw stones and petrol bombs, a security source said.”
Several protesters wounded after clashing w/ security forces in Tayaran Square near Tahrir Square in #Baghdad tonight. Protesters blocked main road demanding electricity & basic services, while security forces responded with excessive force.#IraqProtests #العراق pic.twitter.com/U7LdTNvkdD
— Lawk Ghafuri (@LawkGhafuri) July 26, 2020
In a televised speech on Monday night, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said the protests “are a legitimate right and the security forces do not have the permission to fire even one bullet in the direction of the protesters.” He added that he had “opened an investigation and demanded results within 72 hours.”
On Sunday evening, military spokesman Rasool also responded to the protests, tweeting that security forces are “committed to protecting peaceful demonstrators upon orders from their superiors and will refrain from violence except in cases of extreme necessity.”
“Protests erupted across central and southern Iraq in October 2019, with overwhelmingly young crowds demand[ing] jobs, services, and action against corruption. When demonstrators began to be killed by security forces and pro-Iran militias, activists began demanding an end to foreign interference in Iraqi affairs and called for the overthrow of the political elite,” Rudaw explained.
“By the end of November last year, former Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi resigned after mounting pressure from protesters and an official call from Iraq’s highest Shiite authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. With a new government-appointed but the old establishment securely in place, the dormant movement erupted once again in early May,” the Kurdish news outlet added.
“Sporadic demonstrations have resumed in recent weeks in several Iraqi provinces, most recently over lack of electricity,” the ostensible cause of Sunday night’s protests, Reuters reported on Monday.
Violence continued into Monday night when “three rockets hit Iraq’s Taji military base,” located 53 miles north of Baghdad. The al-Taji base “houses U.S.-led coalition troops,” according to Reuters. Shortly after, “two explosions hit Camp Speicher,” a former U.S. base outside Tikrit, the Iraqi military said.
No casualties were reported in either of Monday night’s assaults on U.S.-affiliated military bases, and no groups immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, the military said.
Late Tuesday, “Iraqi Camp Victory Army Base at Baghdad International Airport, which houses U.S. forces, was targeted by rockets,” Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported, citing local media. The Iraqi government has yet to release a statement on the latest attack on a military base housing U.S. forces, the third in two days.