BASRA, Iraq – Iraqi security forces killed at least one anti-government protester using live gunfire and wounded at least 40 others in the southern city of Basra on Friday, security sources and a rights official said.
It was the first killing of a protester by security forces in Basra since Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi took office in May.
Iraq’s interior ministry confirmed the death but said in a statement that no Iraqi security forces were being allowed to use weapons against demonstrators and that it was investigating the incident.
Deadly flare-ups have been rare since protests against Iraq’s ruling elite and demanding jobs and services largely subsided earlier this year.
During months of anti-government protests that erupted under his predecessor Adel Abdul Mahdi in October 2019, more than 500 people were killed, mostly young unarmed demonstrators.
The Basra security sources and rights official said several dozen protesters had taken to the streets in the country’s southern oil hub on Friday demanding jobs and basic services.
They were angry that Kadhimi had generally failed to deliver on both and that protest camps had been cleared by security force in Basra and Baghdad, the rights official said.
Kadhimi, who visited Basra on Thursday to tour energy projects and meet provincial officials, has pledged to protect non-violent Iraqi protesters and bring justice for the families of those killed last year by security forces and unidentified gunmen.
Security forces in Baghdad last month were ordered not to use live fire in dealing with protests to mark the anniversary of the 2019 demonstrations.