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Iraq Parliament to Convene for Emergency Session

Iraq Parliament to Convene for Emergency SessionIraq Parliament to Convene for Emergency Session

The temporary head of Iraq’s parliament has agreed to convene an emergency session on Saturday to discuss the situation in Basra, the state news agency reported on Friday.

“At the request of 54 members of parliament, the leader of parliament has agreed to hold a special session to discuss the problems, solutions and recent developments in Basra,” a statement from parliament said, Reuters reported.

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Iraq’s southern oil city Basra on Thursday for a fourth day of violent protests, where residents, angry over the neglect of their city’s collapsing infrastructure, set fire to political offices.

Ten demonstrators have been killed in clashes with security forces and dozens injured since a wave of protests began on Monday. Tens of security forces members have also been injured, some by a hand grenade, health and security officials said.

Protesters on Thursday targeted several provincial government buildings, setting the headquarters of the local government on fire, and blocked main roads in the city center.

A protester died on Thursday night from burns sustained during the torching of the government headquarters, health and security sources said.

People attacked the offices of the state-run Iraqiya TV and set fire to the headquarters of the ruling Dawa Party, the Supreme Islamic Council and the Badr Organization, whose leaders are all vying to form Iraq’s ruling coalition. Two more protesters died during those attacks, local security and health sources said.

Protesters also set fire to the offices of a powerful Shia militia, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and those of the Hikma Movement about 100 km north of Basra, and stormed the house of the acting head of the provincial council.

The provincial government headquarters was engulfed in flames, local police and military sources said. No protesters were near the building when the fire broke out in the afternoon, they said.

Security forces, including members of the rapid response team, were expected to be patrolling in high numbers on Thursday. By nightfall, however, they were few and far between in the city center and were not interfering heavily in protesters’ activities.

  Curfew

Basra security officials announced a curfew from 10:30 p.m. (1930 GMT) to help quell the protests. A citywide curfew was originally planned for 3 p.m., but was canceled minutes before it was due to come into force.

An Iraqi security official in Basra said they were struggling to cope with the demonstrations. “We are still waiting for orders from the state’s highest authorities,” he said.

The port of Umm Qasr, the country’s main seaport and its principal lifeline for grain and other commodity imports, closed on Thursday. Port employees said all operations had ceased after protesters began blocking the entrance, which lies about 60 km from Basra, on Wednesday night. Trucks and staff were unable to get in or out of the complex.

Oil exports, handled at offshore terminals, remained untouched by the unrest. Oil exports from Basra account for more than 95% of Iraqi state revenues.

 

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