Protests resume in Iraq’s Sadr City

Protests resume in Iraq’s Sadr City

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s government issued a second package of proposed social reforms yesterday in an attempt to appease the demands of anti-government protesters who for eight days have demonstrated nationwide, with the loss of 110 lives and 6,000 wounded.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi issued a 13-point plan centred on subsidies and housing for the poor, as well as training and educational initiatives for unemployed youth.

Mahdi, following a Cabinet meeting, posted his reforms on social media. Most Iraqis have been cut off from the internet and social media for several days now.

Protests resumed on Monday night in Baghdad’s Sadr City district, with at least one member of the security forces killed, although much of Iraq appeared quieter than it has been for a week as politicians sought a way to end an uprising.

Iraqi security forces began arresting protesters after nightfall yesterday in eastern and northwestern parts of Baghdad, police sources told Reuters.

Police were carrying photos of protesters taken in recent days to identify them and arrest them. Iraq’s semi-official high commission for human rights said that 800 people had been detained last week, with about 500 already released.

Protesters, who have called for the removal of the government and a political class it views as corrupt have clashed with the security forces, mainly in Baghdad and the south.

Iraq’s military said yesterday that 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.

The violence has been the worst in Iraq since it put down an insurgency by the Sunni Muslim Islamic State group nearly two years ago, and the biggest test for Mahdi, in office for a year.

The spread of violence to Sadr City this week could heighten 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 eight million people live with little electricity or water and few jobs.

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

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

Iraq’s military yesterday called back into service those officers and soldiers dismissed on suspicions they abandoned cities and towns to an Islamic State onslaught in 2014.

Parliament, which held its first session yesterday since the crisis began, discussed the move and reform plans aimed at pacifying protesters.



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