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Iraqi cleric killed after calling for armed Basra protests over failing public services

Relatives and supporters of Wissam al-Ghrawi carried his coffin around Basra on Sunday [AP]

Date of publication: 18 November, 2018

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Protesters in Basra have demanded answers over the killing of a cleric linked to demonstrations over public services in the southern Iraqi city.

Hundreds of Basra residents on Saturday mourned a Muslim cleric who had called on locals to take up arms over poor public services in the city.

Police said Wissam al-Ghrawi was shot and killed by unknown assailants outside his home on Saturday night.

Ghrawi was a prominent figure in demonstrations demanding clean water and reliable electricity in the southern Iraqi city. Basra province generates more than 90 percent of Iraq's oil exports but suffers from contaminated drinking water and regular blackouts.

Associates and relatives of the cleric paraded his coffin around parts of the city on Sunday, demanding the police identify the killers and bring them to justice.

"Why was Sheikh Wissam al-Ghrawi killed? Because he asked for clean water? Because he asked for jobs for the unemployed? Is this the price he paid for defending his country?" said civic activist Mohanad al-Ghrawi, a distant relative of the deceased cleric.

Ghrawi was filmed at a protest on Friday saying clerics would issue a fatwa within days allowing locals to take up arms. The video was shared widely on Iraqi social media.

Most of Iraq's 39 million people only get a few hours of state-provided electricity per day and rely on private power generators.

Chronic power outages were a key driving factor behind weeks of massive protests in southern Iraq during the summer.

Last month, officials warned of an impending cholera outbreak in Basra due to contaminated water.

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