More than 6,000 protesters have been injured and 104 have died during protests in Iraq this week, according to the country’s interior ministry. Contradicting many eyewitness reports, spokesman Saad Maan told Iraqi television that no government forces had fired directly at protesters. It is the most serious disruption to hit the country since the defeat of Islamic State two years ago.
The death toll from days of violent demonstrations across Iraq surged to 46 on Friday, most of them killed in the last 24 hours as unrest rapidly accelerated and the country’s most powerful cleric placed the blame squarely on politicians. In a rare intervention, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, whose word is law for most of Iraq’s majority Shi’ites, called on protesters and the security forces to avoid violence.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Wednesday declared a curfew in Baghdad until further notice after at least seven people were killed and more than 400 were injured during two days of nationwide anti-government protests. Curfews were imposed earlier in three southern cities while elite counter-terrorism troops opened fire on protesters trying to storm Baghdad airport.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Tuesday and met Iraq’s prime minister and other top officials to discuss the safety of Americans in Iraq and explain U.S. security concerns amid rising Iranian activity. The visit came two days after U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said the United States was deploying the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and a bomber task force to the region because of a “credible threat by Iranian regime forces”. Washington has ramped up sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program in recent months and designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group.
A ferry overloaded with people celebrating the Kurdish new year and Mother’s Day capsized in the Tigris River near the Iraqi city of Mosul on Thursday, killing nearly 100 people, including families, officials said. An Interior Ministry official said 94 people were killed in the accident, which residents said was the worst in recent memory. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Barham Salih was elected as the new president of Iraq on Tuesday by the parliament ending months of deadlock following the inconclusive national election in May. British-educated Kurdish politician Salih named Shi’ite Adel Abdul Mahdi as the prime minister-delegate. Salih is a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
A storage site holding half of Baghdad’s ballot boxes from Iraq’s parliamentary elections in May caught on fire on Sunday days after parliament called for a nationwide recount. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the fire was a plot to harm Iraq’s democratic process. It is unclear whether voting papers were destroyed.
The Iraqi firebrand militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr has emerged as the surprise frontrunner in Iraq’s national elections after winning more seats than US-backed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Sadr is known for his anti-American campaigns and populist appeal to Iraq’s young and poor. Sadr’s win could change Iraq’s relations with powers like the US and Iran.
A report by the United Nations says that at least 6,000 bodies were found buried in 202 mass graves across Iraq by the Islamic State. Authorities believe there could be more than 12,000 people buried in the mass graves. The graves were discovered in areas of Iraq once controlled by the Islamic State.
Iraq asked a US-led coalition for $88 billion to rebuild its cities, destroyed in the war. The US announced, Tuesday, plans to extend a $3 billion credit line, urging coalition members to help. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said lack of help could prompt return of ‘conditions that allowed ISIS to take and control vast territory.’