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Four protesters killed during unrelenting unrest in Iraq's Basra

Young Basra residents have been venting their fury over unemployment and polluted water [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 September, 2018

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A bloody two days in Iraq's Basra have seen twelve protesters killed, many shot dead by government forces, as fury over water and electricity shortages shows no sign of abating.

Security officials and medical sources in the southern Iraqi province of Basra said on Thursday that the violence that has engulfed the city has killed four people and injured 81 since Thursday afternoon.

Thursday evening's casualties bringings the total number from the past two days to 12 deaths and close to 200 injuries.

Protesters in the oil-rich province have been demanding clean water and electricity, as well as an end to rampant unemployment and government corruption. They say that none of the government’s promises from July to resolve these issues have been fulfilled.

Pollution of the local water supply in Basra has put 20,000 people in hospital. Local officials estimate youth unemployment is above 50 percent.

Read more: The Iraq Report: Basra's fury erupts anew as protesters killed

A senior police officer in Basra told The New Arab that 29 government buildings and other political headquarters had been set alight by protesters, in addition to offices belonging to nine different armed factions.

Protesters have also blocked off roads leading to oil and gas fields in the province and to important ports.

The officer added that security forces were attempting to contain the violence, noting some protesters have been carrying weapons and throwing petrol bombs.

The officer said the the buildings set on fire included the governor’s residence and that of the head of the provincial council, as well as the headquarters for the tax and security departments.

Political headquarters of the Dawa and Hikma parties were also set alight, along with those of the  Asaib Ahl al-Haq Shia militia. He added that cars and other items in the buildings were taken out onto the street and burned, to a chorus of cheers and chants from protesters.

Markets were also forced to close for fear of attack as protestors took to the streets.

Doctor Hassan al-Tai from the al-Fiha hospital in Basra, confirmed that the hospital had received 85 wounded people, four of whom had died. The majority of them had been hit by gunfire, presumably that of the security forces.

He added that the hospital had declared a state of emergency and is expecting to receive more casualties.

Sheikh Mohammed al-Tamimi, a notable elder in Basra, told The New Arab that the leaders of the various tribal factions in the region had rejected a request from the army commander to hold a meeting about the demonstrations, saying that the army had no credibility and holding a meeting with them would lose them respect from their tribe members.

Eyewitnesses to the unrest told The New Arab that the army has cut off the road between Basra and other southern provinces as they anticipate that the demonstrations may spread to neighbouring Najaf, Karbala, Maysan, Muthana, Qadissiya and others, where a heavy security presence is currently being deployed.

Ghanem al-Saidy, an activist in the protest movement, told The New Arab that the army, alongside other forces believed to belong to various armed factions, have been deploying in tanks in the city.

They have reportedly been broadcasting on loudspeakers that they will use force against those who violate orders given by the security forces, including the curfew imposed on Thursday night.

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