Iraqis continue to demonstrate despite PM decision to resign

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Iraqi demonstrators continued their protests in Baghdad and southern areas on Saturday, considering the resignation of the prime minister’s planned unconvincing and insisting on “the removal of all corrupt symbols.”

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announced on Friday his intention to resign to parliament, but this did not prevent the continued protests in the city of Nasiriyah, his hometown.

Protesters set tires aboard three bridges along the Euphrates River, while hundreds gathered in the main protest square in the city center, an AFP correspondent reported.

Renewed demonstrations in the city despite the bloody crackdown by the security forces, which killed more than 40 demonstrators in the last two days in the city.

The violence erupted after demonstrators stormed the Iranian consulate and burned it in the city of Najaf, accusing Iraq’s neighbor of supporting the Baghdad government.

Medics told AFP that security personnel in civilian uniforms broke the demonstrations following the burning of the consulate, killing more than 20 protesters.

Five demonstrators were killed as they tried to approach the shrine of religious political figure Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim, founder of the Supreme Islamic Council of his party Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.

The city of Najaf was relatively calm on Saturday morning, according to an AFP correspondent, but crowds often start gathering in the evening.

Karbala, the second-largest Shiite holy city, witnessed protests, including the firing of tear gas that lasted until early Saturday.

In Diwaniya, thousands took to the streets early to demand the “overthrow of the regime.”

“We will continue this movement. The resignation of Abdul Mahdi is only the first step, and now all the corrupt figures must be removed and brought to justice,” one protester told AFP.

The current popular movement in Iraq has been the largest in decades and the bloodiest, where more than 420 people were killed and 15 thousand wounded in Baghdad and the Shiite-dominated south, according to statistics cited by AFP.

The growing killings have drawn worldwide criticism, with the United Nations saying the deaths “cannot be tolerated”.

The French Foreign Ministry said it “strongly condemns the excessive and disproportionate use of force against protesters.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Friday he would resign shortly after Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called on the Iraqi parliament to withdraw confidence from the government.

The prime minister gave no further details but parliament was due to meet on Sunday.

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