DEATH TOLL RISES TO 94 AS CLASHES ERUPT AGAIN –
Police snipers said to shoot at demonstrators
KUWAIT CITY, Oct 5, (Agencies): An official at Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday evening cautioned the Kuwaiti nationals against travel to the sisterly Republic of Iraq at present due to the ongoing turmoil there. The official also called on the Kuwaitis living in Iraq to leave for home as early as possible or take the necessary precautions, including keeping away from sites of protests, until they are able to leave.
In case of any emergency, the Kuwaiti nationals there are well advised to contact their embassy in Baghdad or the general consulate in Basra via the phone number: 009647828444666, the source added.
Clashes between police and protesters killed five people in Baghdad on Saturday in a resumption of anti-government unrest, as security forces deployed in their hundreds to keep demonstrations away from central squares in the Iraqi capital. Police and medical sources reported the casualties after days of violence around anti-government protests that killed at least 81 people in Baghdad and other cities earlier this week. Iraq’s semi-official High Commission for Human Rights put the toll at 94 dead.
Reuters could not verify its figures. Police snipers shot at demonstrators and several people were wounded in eastern Baghdad, Reuters reporters said. Police also fired live rounds at demonstrators in the southern city of Nassiriya, where at least 18 people were killed during the week. The new clashes shattered a day of relative calm after authorities lifted a curfew and traffic moved normally in the centre of the city.
One square where protesters had gathered in their hundreds in previous was packed with hundreds of policemen and other security personnel. The unrest is the deadliest Iraq has seen since the declared defeat of Islamic State in 2017 and has shaken Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s year-old government. The government has responded with vague reform promises that are unlikely to placate Iraqis.
Iraqi state television meanwhile broadcast live footage of a meeting between the parliament speaker and what it said were protest leaders. The speaker on Friday proposed improving public housing for the poor and job opportunities for young people, as well as holding those who had killed protesters to account.
Officials from Abdul Mahdi’s office met protest leaders from Baghdad and other provinces to discuss their demands, state television reported. Abdul Mahdi and President Barham Salih said they would seek to meet the demands, state television also reported, but gave no details how exactly they would respond. Authorities did not say why the curfew was lifted.
The High Commission for Human Rights said security forces had detained hundreds of people for demonstrating but then let most of them go. It said more than 3,000 people had been wounded in days of violence. Police snipers shot at protesters on Friday, Reuters reporters said, escalating violent tactics used by the security forces that have included live fire, tear-gas and water cannons.
The security forces have accused gunmen of hiding among demonstrators to shoot at police. Several policeman have died. The protests over unfair distribution of jobs, lack of services and government corruption erupted on Tuesday in Baghdad and quickly spread to other Iraqi cities, mainly in the south. A curfew in Dhi Qar province, where protesters were also killed this week, was ordered by local authorities starting from 1:00 pm.
Powerful Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has a mass popular following and controls a large chunk of parliament, demanded on Friday that the government resign and snap elections be held.
At least one other major parliamentary grouping allied itself with Sadr against the government. Parliament was set to meet on Saturday to discuss protesters’ demands. Sadr’s bloc has said it will boycott the session.
Secretary General of the Arab League Ahmed Abul Gheit expressed concern over the escalation in the Iraqi capital and other cities due to the ongoing protests since Oct 1. In a statement by the League’s General Secretariat on Saturday, Abul Gheit expressed his regret over the protestors and policemen’s deaths and injuries.
He also expressed his deepest condolences for the victims’ families. He called on the Iraqi Government to take measures to deescalate the situation and hold a serious dialogue to resolve the issues that led to the breakout of protests. Qatar’s foreign ministry advised its citizens on Friday not to travel to Iraq and urged those already there to leave immediately in view of ongoing unrest.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain on Thursday urged all nationals not to travel to Iraq at present due to the current security conditions. In a press statement, the ministry called on all citizens who are now in Iraq to leave it immediately for their own security and safety. It also advised nationals who are still in Iraq to exercise utmost caution, keep away from unrest and rioting spots and follow the instructions of the competent local authorities.