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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Irate, protesters Iraq's south torch parliament offices

It was the most violent incident in Basra since mass anti-government demonstrations in October [AFP]

Date of publication: 22 August, 2020

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Protesters had gathered to demand the resignation of Basra governor Asad al-Eidani after two activists were gunned down in the city in the past week.

Protesters torched parliament offices in Iraq's oil-rich south on Friday following days of inaction by the government after two activists were assassinated.

Demonstrators burned the outer gate of the entrance to the parliament building in Basra province, the area that produces the lion's share of Iraq's oil.

The building holds the local offices of Iraq's main parliament building in the capital Baghdad.

It was the most violent incident in Basra since mass anti-government demonstrations in October, when tens of thousands took to the streets in Baghdad and across the south to decry government corruption.

Protests also erupted in Basra in the summer of 2018.

An Associated Press photographer witnessed demonstrators clash with security forces by hurling molotov cocktails.

At least eight security personnel were injured in the clashes, said Ali al-Bayati, spokesman for the semi-official Independent High Commission for Human Rights.

Protesters had gathered to demand the resignation of Basra governor Asad al-Eidani after two activists were gunned down in the city in the past week.

Activist Reham Yacoub was killed in Basra on Wednesday by unidentified gunmen. Yacoub was a respected activist who had been active in the October demonstrations.

Read more: Iraqi female protest leader and fitness instructor shot dead in Basra

Days earlier, activist Tahseen Osama was killed by armed men. That killing prompted dozens of protesters to take to the street, and police responded by firing live rounds at them.

In response, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi had Basra's chief of police sacked.

But protesters said this was not enough, decrying inaction by the Iraqi government over the two killings. They carried banners calling for the actvists' killers to be held accountable.

"Al-Eidani bears the greatest responsibility" for the deaths of the activists, explained protester Ahmed Qassim.

"This is because he is the head of the Supreme Security Committee and he is responsible for bringing any party involved in the assassinations to court." Qasim said

"Because he did not move a finger, he is complicit in the suppression of protesters by force,". he added.

Al-Kadhimi is on a visit to Washington DC to conclude strategic talks expected to shape the future of US-Iraq relations, and the future of the US troop presence in the country.

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