Iraq's parliament building in Basra set on fire by protesters after activists killed

Protesters partake in an anti-government protest demanding free elections and against corruption in Basra, Aug. 17, 2020. (AP)

Protesters torched parliament offices in Iraq’s oil-rich south on Friday following days of inaction by the government after two activists were assassinated.

Demonstrators burned the outer gate of the entrance to the parliament building in Basra province, the area that produces the lion’s share of the crude exporting country’s oil. The building holds the local offices of Iraq’s main parliament building in the capital Baghdad.

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It is the most violent incident in Basra since the October mass anti-government demonstrations, when tens of thousands took to the streets to decry government corruption in Baghdad and across the south. Destabilizing protests also erupted in Basra in the summer of 2018.

An Associated Press photographer witnessed demonstrators clash with security forces by hurling molotov cocktails.

The violence comes after activist Reham Yacoub was gunned down in Basra on Wednesday by unidentified gunmen. Days before activist Tahseen Osama was killed by armed men, which first prompted dozens of protesters to take to the streets. Police responded by firing live rounds at the demonstrators.

In response, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi had Basra’s chief of police sacked.

But protesters said this was not enough, decrying inaction by the Iraqi government over the two killings.

Kadhimi is on an official visit to Washington, DC to conclude strategic talks expected to shape the future of US-Iraq relations, and the future of the US troop presence in the country.

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Last Update: Friday, 21 August 2020 KSA 20:47 - GMT 17:47
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