Protester shot dead in Iraqi capital: Medics

BAGHDAD: A demonstrator was shot dead near the Iraqi capital’s main protest camp by unidentified attackers using a gun silencer, medics said on Saturday, as police reported a spate of activist abductions.
Around 550 people have been killed since the anti-government movement erupted in October and around 30,000 more have been wounded, a vast majority of them young demonstrators.
As the movement has dwindled, some hardcore protesters have opted to remain in the streets but they have been subject to ongoing violence.
Late on Friday, unidentified gunmen entered a tent near Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and shot a male demonstrator inside with a silenced pistol, a medical source said. It was unclear why he was targeted.
Another protester who was nearby said he saw a crowd gathering around the tent and yelling before pulling the body out and taking it to a nearby hospital.
The young man was already dead. Activists have for months complained of a campaign of targeted kidnappings and even assassinations aimed at keeping them from protesting and for which no one has been held accountable.
Between Friday and Saturday, at least three activists were abducted from different neighbourhoods across Baghdad, a police source said.
The Iraqi Human Rights Commission has documented more than 2,700 arrests since protests erupted, with more than 300 people still detained. More than 70 Iraqis are categorised as disappeared.
Meanwhile, irked by Iraq’s close ties to neighbouring Iran, Washington has begun following through on threats to squeeze Baghdad’s fragile economy with delays to crucial cash deliveries and shortened sanctions waivers.
This week, the US granted Iraq last-minute leave to import Iranian gas for its crippled power grids, despite American sanctions on Tehran.
But Washington’s patience seems to be running out — the latest waiver was reduced from the usual 90 or 120 days to just 45.
“This is the beginning of death by a thousand cuts,” warned financial analyst Ahmed Tabaqchali, of the Iraq-based Institute of Regional and International Studies.
“The shorter the waiver, the more we can’t afford for things to go wrong in that time.”
Iraq is at a crucial crossroads. Its new premier is struggling to form a cabinet, anti-government protests are filling the streets and skyrocketing tensions between its two main allies, Tehran and Washington, have already spilt blood on its territory. — AFP