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Protesters set Iranian consulate ablaze in Iraq's Basra

Protesters stormed the Iranian consulate in the southern city [Twitter]

Date of publication: 7 September, 2018

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The Iranian consulate in Iraq's southern city of Basra was set on fire on Friday, as protesters vented their anger over poor public services.

Hundreds of protesters stormed and set on fire the Iranian consulate in Iraq's southern city of Basra on Friday, an AFP photographer said, as they vented their anger over poor public services.

Thousands of demonstrators rallied outside the building while hundreds went inside the consulate and set it ablaze, the photographer said.

Basra has seen a surge in protests since Tuesday, with demonstrators torching government buildings as well as political party and militia offices, as anger boils over after the hospitalisation of 30,000 people who had drunk polluted water.

At least nine demonstrators have been killed since then in clashes with security forces, Mehdi al-Tamimi, head of Basra's human rights council, has said.

Protests first broke out in July in oil-rich Basra province before spreading to other parts of the country, with demonstrators also condemning corruption among Iraqi officials and demanding jobs. 

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has scrambled to defuse the anger and authorities have pledged a multi-billion dollar emergency plan to revive infrastructure and services in southern Iraq.  

But Iraqis remain sceptical as the country remains in a political limbo after May elections with the formation of a new government still to be sealed. 

On Friday Iraq's parliament called an emergency session after a curfew was imposed in the southern city of Basra following the fresh outbreak of deadly protests 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.

Abadi and key ministers are to attend Saturday's parliament session, which was demanded by populist Shia cleric Muqtada 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 Shiite majority, in his Friday sermon denounced "the bad behaviour of senior officials" and called for the next government to be "different from its predecessors".

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