UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Anti-government demonstrators on Monday re-installed their tents that were burned across Iraq, seeking to continue the momentum of their protests amid fears of an escalation following a missile attack on the US embassy in Baghdad.
The attack, which resulted in the injury of at least one person, was a serious shift in the series of attacks that have affected US interests in recent months.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the United States accuses armed factions loyal to Iran in Iraq, raising fears that the country may become a forum for settling scores between Tehran and Washington.
Anti-government activists fear that a similar conflict will end their protest movement, which is the largest popular protest in Iraq in decades.
The demonstrators have been calling for deep political reforms since October 1. They again invaded the streets and squares of Baghdad and several cities in the south of the country from which they were driven out on Saturday.
The protesters are calling for early elections under a new electoral law, for an independent prime minister and for accountability of corrupt officials and those who have ordered the use of violence against the protesters.
And at dawn on Monday, a protester was shot dead in the city of Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, according to a security source told France Press, as unidentified gunmen stormed the central square of the anti-government protests and burned the tents of the demonstrators.
On Monday night, unidentified gunmen in four-wheel-drive vehicles stormed and burned the tents of the protesters in Al-Haboubi Square, in the center of Nasiriyah, according to an AFP correspondent. They shot the protesters and burned their tents, which turned into rubble, according to the same reporter.
A medical source in Nasiriyah confirmed that a protester had been killed and four others were wounded by live bullets as a result of the attack.
A few hours later, protesters responded by closing two major bridges in the city, 350 km south of Baghdad.
And the Shiite holy city of Najaf witnessed a similar attack, during which unidentified gunmen burned the tents of protesters in the protest square in the city center, according to an AFP correspondent.
– Student marches and blocking roads –
The demonstrators, who started a week ago to block the streets, bridges and main roads linking the cities, some of them with burning tires, are trying to increase the pressure on the government to carry out long-awaited reforms, but this was met with a response to the use of force by the People’s Defense Forces.
The violence during the past week resulted in the killing of 21 demonstrators and wounding hundreds of wounds.
More than 480 people have been killed in the protests since it began in early October, according to a toll compiled by Agence France-Presse based on medical and security sources.
Since Friday, after the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced his abandonment of support for protests in which the younger generation is the active element, security forces began a campaign to break up protests in several squares in Baghdad and other cities of the country.
A large number of protesters, including al-Sadr’s supporters, dismantled their tents and withdrew from the protest sites, which raised activists’ fears of losing the political cover and thus being subjected to a crackdown.
Sadr, who controls the “Saeron” coalition, the largest political bloc in parliament, supported a period of protests that began in early October, and called on the government to resign.
Danger of war? –
However, he called for a separate demonstration to demand the departure of 5,200 American soldiers from Iraq, after the American air strike on a plane in Baghdad early this month in which the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Organization, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, were killed.
On Friday, thousands poured into Baghdad to participate in the demonstration rejecting the American presence in the country, which Sadr did not attend but praised the turnout for. Hours later, he said, he will not interfere with the required movement, “neither in the negative nor in the affirmative.”
But the scene changed on Sunday, with thousands of demonstrators leaving, the majority of whom are school and university students to express their adherence to the demand protest.
Meanwhile, one person was injured as a result of an attack that targeted the American embassy in Baghdad on Sunday night, according to an American diplomatic source and an Iraqi security source.
It was not possible to ascertain whether the victim was an American or Iraqi citizen working for the mission.
The US embassy did not immediately respond to requests for comment, while the US State Department called on Iraq to “fulfill its obligations to protect our diplomatic facilities.”
The resigned Iraqi Prime Minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, and Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi condemned the attack, saying it involved the risk of dragging their country into war.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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