Iraq parliament to hold emergency session after Basra burns

BASRA: Iraq’s parliament on Friday called an emergency session after a curfew was imposed in the southern city of Basra following a fresh outbreak of deadly protests over poor public services and as shells were fired into Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone.
Lawmakers and ministers will meet on Saturday to discuss the water contamination crisis which has triggered the protests, parliament said in a statement.
Mehdi al Tamimi, head of Basra’s human rights council, said nine demonstrators have been killed since Tuesday in clashes with security forces as anger boils over after the hospitalisation of 30,000 people who had drunk polluted water.
“We’re thirsty, we’re hungry, we are sick and abandoned,” protester Ali Hussein said on Friday after another night of violence.
“Demonstrating is a sacred duty and all honest people ought to join.”
Prime Minister Haider al Abadi and key ministers are to attend Saturday’s parliament session, which was demanded by populist cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose political bloc won the largest number of seats in May elections although a new government has yet to be formed.
The rare assault by unidentified attackers on the Green Zone, which houses parliament, government offices and the US Embassy, caused no casualties or damage, Baghdad’s security chief said.
Sadr, whose supporters held protests inside the Green Zone in 2016 to condemn corruption among Iraqi officials, called for “demonstrations of peaceful anger” in Basra after the main weekly Muslim prayers on Friday.
And the representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, spiritual leader of Iraq’s majority, in his Friday sermon denounced “the bad behaviour of senior officials” and called for the next government to be “different from its predecessors”.
In Basra, the epicentre of protests that have rocked Iraq since July, demonstrators on Thursday set fire to the local government headquarters and both political party and militia offices.
The fire spread across Basra’s massive government complex, with witnesses saying it tore through offices housing state TV channel Iraqiya.
The nearby governor’s residence was also set ablaze, journalists reported. At least 24 people have been killed in the demonstrations since they erupted in Basra on July 8. — AFP