Nearly 80 dead as gov. buildings, political party offices torched in Iraq protests

Fresh protests began on Friday, quickly turning violent as they continued on Sunday for the third day.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi High Commission of Human Rights on Monday said the total number of deaths from three days of protests had reached 74 people amid continued reports of violence from the ongoing demonstrations.

Fresh protests began on Friday, quickly turning violent as they continued on Sunday for the third day. Another bout of demonstrations earlier in the month went on for about a week, reportedly resulting in at least 140 deaths.

The human rights commission said in a statement that 74 people had been killed, most of whom had been shot with direct gunfire as a result of “confrontations between protesters and security guards of political party headquarters as they attempted to enter” the buildings.

The statement also said 158 people were arrested in a series of raids by the security forces in Babil, Basra, and Dhi Qar provinces. While many of them have been released, 35 are still under arrest.

The commission also noted that up to 90 private and public buildings had been burned “by some individuals who want to divert the demonstrations from their peaceful path.”

Local reports published photos from one particular case where a building in Babil province was burned. Individuals can be seen close to what was reportedly the office of the Badr Organization, an Iranian-backed militia group, engulfed in flames. In the same province, the homes of two lawmakers were also torched, local media Shafaaq reported.

Videos also emerged on social media purportedly showing the Karbala Provincial Council building burning with a small crowd dispersing nearby.

As the unrest continued on Sunday, the office of Iraq’s commander-in-chief, who is also the Prime Minister, Adil Abdul Mahdi, warned in a statement on Sunday that any public facility such as schools or universities issuing days off would be met with “severe punitive measures.”

The prime minister also ordered the elite Counter-Terrorism Service to deploy in the streets of Baghdad in purported efforts to protect important state buildings as other security forces worked to control the throngs of angry citizens that poured into public spaces.

Read More: Iraq deploys elite counter-terrorism force to end Baghdad protests

South of Baghdad, in oil-rich Basra, security re-imposed a curfew just an hour after it was lifted at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. This came as protests resumed in Basra province. The governorate has been the site of frequent demonstrations, mainly against poor services and unemployment.

Police in Basra previously announced that they had arrested several individuals it described as “saboteurs” on arson attack charges, claiming “there is an attempt of sabotage in Basra and ISIS sent groups” to the province.

The statement alleged that “intelligence agencies of specific countries” were paying “destructive elements” to attack the police with bombs and Molotov. It added that 95 members of the security forces had been injured while they had “not fired a single shot.”

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany