US ‘outraged’ by assassinations of Iraqi activists

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The United States said Thursday that it was “outraged by the targeted assassinations” of activists and attacks on protesters in Iraq, one day after unknown gunmen assassinated Iraqi activist Dr. Reham Yacoub in central Basra.

Yacoub was one of four activists who were targeted and killed in Basra on Wednesday night while one other activist was assassinated in the capital Baghdad, according to Al Arabiya’s Baghdad correspondent Majid Hamid.

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“It is unconscionable that the perpetrators of these horrible acts continue to act with impunity,” a senior US official said in a statement.

A number of Iraqi protesters and activists have been killed, detained and beaten since anti-government protests started last October.

“We strongly support the right of Iraqis to assemble peacefully and express themselves,” US State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said, calling on the Iraqi government to hold accountable “the militias, thugs, and criminal gangs attacking Iraqis exercising their right to peaceful protest.”

Human rights monitors sounded the alarm over a recent spike in assassinations targeting civil rights activists in Iraq's south on Thursday.

“It seems that there is a well-programmed cleansing of activists who were influential in the last protest movement,” said Ali al-Bayati, spokesman for the semi-official Iraqi Independent High Commission for Human Rights.

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