Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Protests in Iraq are going nationwide in what looks like a new ‘Arab Spring’ moment
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Gunfights between protesters and security forces broke out in the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya on Wednesday, with elite counter-terrorism troops deploying after police "lost control" of the situation, police sources told Reuters.
Two protesters had been killed in the city on Wednesday and one on Tuesday after police opened fire to disperse protests.
Five people were killed overall and at least 132 wounded on Wednesday in renewed nationwide clashes between demonstrators and Iraqi security forces, the largest display of public anger against Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi's year-old government.
Domestic instability coupled with regional tensions could prove to be the final nail in the coffin of Abdul Mahdi's fragile coalition government, sworn in last year as a compromise between rival factions after an inconclusive election.
The protests, which started on Tuesday over unemployment, corruption, and poor public services, have escalated, with many chanting for the "fall of the regime", a slogan first popularized during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
Demonstrators disperse as Iraqi security forces use tear gas during a protest over unemployment, corruption and poor public services, in Baghdad, Iraq October 2, 2019.
"We are demanding a change, we want the downfall of the whole government," said one protester in Baghdad who declined to identify himself for fear of reprisal.
Five people were killed or died from their wounds on Wednesday, taking the toll to at least seven as at least two people were killed and 200 wounded on Tuesday.
An Interior Ministry spokesman said one child was killed on Wednesday when a protester threw a bottle filled with gasoline at a vehicle carrying civilian passengers in Baghdad. Another was killed in the southern city of Emara and one protester died of wounds sustained on Tuesday.
Police and the army opened fire and launched tear gas canisters to disperse hundreds of protesters all over Baghdad. Protesters blocked the main highway connecting the capital to Iraq's northern provinces.
Protests erupted all over southern Iraq - heartland of the Shi'ite Muslim majority who after years of voting along sectarian lines are turning on their political leaders for failing to deliver jobs and basic services. Protesters burned down government buildings in Nassiriya, Amara and the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf.
In Kut, protesters tried to break into the municipality building. Hundreds were out on the streets of Hilla and Diwaniya while dozens gathered in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf.
Thousands gathered in the oil-rich city of Basra but the protests were peaceful. There were peaceful protests in Samawa. Curfews were later imposed in Nassiriya and two other southern cities, Amara and Hilla, the police sources told Reuters.
Small protests also took place in the northern cities of Kirkuk and Tikrit, as well as the eastern province of Diyala.Any power vacuum in Iraq, should the government be toppled, could prove challenging for the region, given Baghdad's status as an ally of both the United States and Iran, who are locked in a political standoff.
Islamic State militants could also take advantage of any chaos and thousands of U.S. troops are stationed in the country in positions not far from those of Iran-allied Shi'ite militias.
"Our demands? We want work, we want to work. If they do not want to treat us as Iraqis, then tell us we are not Iraqi and we will find other nationalities and migrate to other countries," said one protester in Baghdad.
Internet access was cut off across much of Iraq, internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said.
Abdul Mahdi on Wednesday chaired an emergency meeting of the national security council, which issued a statement regretting deaths and injuries on both sides.
"The council affirms the right to protest, freedom of expression, and the protesters' legitimate demands, but at the same time condemns the acts of vandalism that accompanied the protests," it said.
All military units were placed on high alert, the defense ministry said.
Security forces blocked several roads in Baghdad, including a bridge that leads to the fortified Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign embassies.
In an attempt to cool tempers, Abdul Mahdi on Tuesday promised jobs for graduates. He instructed the oil ministry and other government bodies to include a 50% quota for local workers in subsequent contracts with foreign companies.
Oil-producing Iraq has suffered hardships for decades, from rule by Saddam Hussein including years subject to U.N. sanctions, to the 2003 U.S. invasion and civil war it unleashed, and then the battle against Islamic State, which was declared won in 2017.
Corruption is widespread and basic services such as power and water are lacking.
The government said on Tuesday that 40 members of the security forces were hurt and at least 11 more were injured on Wednesday.
BANGKOK (Reuters) - The United States and South Korea said on Sunday they will postpone upcoming military drills in an effort to bolster a stalled peace push with North Korea, even as Washington denied the move amounted to another concession to Pyongyang.
The drills, known as the Combined Flying Training Event, would have simulated air combat scenarios and involved an undisclosed number of warplanes from both the United States and South Korea.
An opening ceremony will be held Monday on Hawaii island for a military exercise with China that will involve about 100 People's Liberation Army soldiers training alongside U.S. Army counterparts.
This comes after Adm. Phil Davidson, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, spoke on Veterans Day at Punchbowl cemetery about the "rules-based international order" that followed U.S. victory in the Pacific in World War II, and China's attempts to usurp it.
Those American standards "are even more important today," Davidson said, "as malicious actors like the Communist Party of China seek to redefine the international order through corruption, malign cyber activities, intellectual property theft, restriction of individual liberties, military coercion and the direct attempts to override other nations' sovereignty."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to "act quickly" to reach a deal with the United States, in a tweet weighing in on North Korea's criticism of his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump, who has met Kim three times since 2018 over ending the North's missile and nuclear programs, addressed Kim directly, referring to the one-party state's ruler as "Mr. Chairman".
In his tweet, Trump told Kim, "You should act quickly, get the deal done," and hinted at a further meeting, signing off "See you soon!"
It is impossible to tune out news about the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump now that the hearings have become public. And this means that cable news networks and Congress are happier than pigs in manure: this story will dominate the news for the foreseeable future unless Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt get back together.
But the wall-to-wall coverage of impeachment mania has also created a news desert. To those of you who would rather emigrate to North Korea than watch one more lawmaker grandstand for the cameras, I humbly offer you an oasis of news that has absolutely nothing to do with Washington intrigue.
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will return three captured naval ships to Ukraine on Monday and is moving them to a handover location agreed with Kiev, Crimea's border guard service was cited as saying by Russian news agencies on Sunday.
A Reuters reporter in Crimea, which Russian annexed from Ukraine in 2014, earlier on Sunday saw coastguard boats pulling the three vessels through the Kerch Strait toward the Black Sea where they could potentially be handed over to Ukraine.