BASRA, Iraq, July 8, (Agencies): Iraqi police opened fire to disperse dozens of protesters near the southern oil hub of Basra on Sunday as they demonstrated against a shortage of jobs, electricity, water and other basic services, police and local officials said.
Police sources said eight protesters were wounded in the shooting while a local mayor said one demonstrator was killed and three were wounded. “Protesters were only making fair demands for jobs and better basic services but police opened fire and killed one protester,” said Yaseen al-Battat, a local mayor from the Imam Sadiq area where the protesters were.
Police and oil officials said Sunday’s incident didn’t impact the security or operations of the giant southern oilfields.
The protesters, from farmland areas around 100 km (62 miles) north of Basra, gathered on a highway located near the southern oilfields perimeters of West Qurna-2, which is being developed by Russia’s Lukoil, and West Qurna 1oilfield, operated by Exxon Mobil, police said.
Local communities and tribes in Iraq, where foreign oil companies are developing the OPEC nation’s vast energy reserves, periodically protest to urge companies to provide jobs and other benefits. Stability in Basra, the main southern city at the edge of the Gulf, is of vital importance as a hub for oil exports accounting for over 95 percent of government revenues.
Meanwhile, two women from the Philippines kidnapped in Iraq on Saturday have been freed, the Diyala province police chief said on Sunday.
The women had been travelling with three compatriots on the road connecting Baghdad to oil city Kirkuk when their car broke down, two military sources said.
The two women got out of the car after it broke down. Unknown men drove by in a yellow car and took them, a military source said. The identities, affiliation, and motivation of the kidnappers was not yet clear, the sources said on Saturday.
There has been an increase in attacks and kidnappings by Islamic State militants over the past few weeks near the area where the women were taken. At least eight members of the security forces were kidnapped and later killed by militants on the same highway last month. In other news, Iraqi Vice President Dr. Iyad Allawi was admitted to the hospital to address a setback in his health, said a statement by his office on Sunday.
Allawi’s health is currently stable and will be released from hospital care in the few upcoming hours, added the office. The statement did not reveal the nature of ailment but said it was dealt with. Allawi is 73 years old and carries a doctorate degree from the United Kingdom.