Kuwaitis urged to avoid gathering places, land roads in Iraq
KUWAIT CITY, July 14: Prompted by sightings of Kuwaiti land forces deployed at the northern border with Iraq on Friday night and the early hours of Saturday, MP Ali Al- Deqbasi said the destructive Iraqi demonstrations which happened in Basra and other areas close to Kuwait-Iraq border are not a coincidence but the result of continuous geopolitical provocation in Iraq.
He pointed out that although the situation is worrisome, the Kuwaiti public trusts the country’s security protocols and supports all efforts in safeguarding the borders. On the other hand, an official source from the Ministry of Foreign affairs confirmed that the northern border is secure and there is no need to worry; clarifying the security forces are currently stationed at the border to monitor the situation.
The source said Kuwait is concerned with disturbances currently happening in neighbouring Iraq, but trusts the ability of Iraq to control the situation, ensure national security and protect the wellbeing of its people. Kuwait’s overall security situation is stable, under control, and unaffected by the ongoing events in South Iraq, the Kuwaiti army announced Saturday.
The incidents that are currently taking place nearby Kuwait’s northern borders with Iraq are internal affairs of a neighboring country, the army said in a press statement. The recent actions carried out by the Kuwaiti army in cooperation with security bodies in the country are merely precautionary measures, added the statement.
The Chief of the General Staff of Kuwait’s Army Lieutenant- General Mohammad Al-Khudher, accompanied by a number of military and security leaderships in the country, has inspected the northern area to check on the Kuwaiti forces and the precautionary procedures, it noted. Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti embassy in Baghdad has confirmed the safety of Kuwaiti nationals in Iraqi cities, which are witnessing popular demonstrations, calling for the avoidance of places that people are gathered at and land roads.
Safety “At a time when we confirm the safety of all Kuwaiti citizens visiting Iraq, we are calling for avoiding gathering places and land roads,” Ambassador Salem Al-Zamanan told Kuwait News Agency KUNA today. He called for coordinating with the embassy in Baghdad in case of traveling to Kuwait by calling its phones around the clock at: (07802604123, 078300004444 and 0783111112222).
Two more demonstrators were killed in southern Iraq, officials said, as protests against unemployment spread on Saturday from the port city of Basra to other parts of the country including Baghdad. The deaths overnight in Maysan province on the border with Iran brought to three the number of demonstrators killed since the protests erupted Sunday in neighbouring Basra. A spokesman for the Maysan health authorities, Ahmad al- Kanani, said the pair died from gunshot wounds in the provincial capital Amarah.
It was not clear who killed them but Kanani said there had been “indiscriminate gunfire” in the city. Dozens more have been wounded in the past week, including security forces, according to medical sources. The unrest comes as Iraq struggles to rebuild after a devastating three-year war against Islamic State group jihadists, and with the country in political limbo following May elections.
The demonstrations over unemployment, the rising cost of living and a lack of basic services escalated after a protester was killed by security forces on Sunday in Basra. Demonstrators set tyres ablaze to block roads and tried to storm government installations.
On Friday Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi fl ew to Basra from Brussels, where he had attended a NATO summit, to try to restore calm. But even as he met the governor of the oil-rich province and energy chiefs, protesters took to the streets of Basra city as well as other parts of the province and the unrest spread further afield.
Overnight in Maysan, several protests were held outside the headquarters of various political parties — including Abadi’s Dawa Party — and some were set on fire, Iraqi media reported. A small protest also took place after midnight in the northern Baghdad district of Al-Shula amid a heavy deployment of security forces, a security source told AFP. The source said a few protesters were still out on the streets of Al-Shula on Saturday morning, adding that the demonstration was peaceful.
Unidentified calls were also posted on social media for massive demonstrations to take place on Saturday in Baghdad. Some urged demonstrators to head for the fortified Green Zone, an area out of bounds for most Iraqis where the country’s key institutions and embassies, including the US and British missions, are located. On Saturday dozens of protesters rallied in different parts of Basra, including at the West Qurna and Majnoon oil fields west of the city, an AFP correspondent said. Protesters were gathered at Basra’s Umm Qasr port and outside the governor’s office in the centre of the city. A group of demonstrators also staged a brief protest at the Safwan border crossing with neighbouring Kuwait.
On Friday hundreds of people holding Iraqi flags gathered outside the governor’s office in Basra while protests also took place in the provinces of Dhi Qar and Najaf. Shiite clerics, including Moqtada Sadr whose populist coalition triumphed in May elections, have backed the protesters but urged them to refrain from violence. Sadr has sought to form a broad coalition with rivals including Abadi, but the process has been complicated by the supreme court ordering manual recounts in areas where the election was disputed.
After visiting Basra, the prime minister chaired a security cabinet in Baghdad, his office said in a statement accusing “infiltrators” of feeding on “peaceful protests to attack public and private property”. “Our forces will take all the necessary measures to counter those people,” the statement said. Officially, 10.8 percent of Iraqis are jobless, while youth unemployment is twice as high in a country where 60 percent of the population are aged under 24.
By Ahmed Al-Naqeeb Arab Times Staff and Agencies