Iraq protesters turn out in defiance after Baghdad attack


PTI, Dec 7, 2019, 3:51 PM IST

Baghdad: Iraqi protesters defiantly turned out on Saturday across the country’s south and in the capital, where a dozen people were killed in an overnight attack by unidentified gunmen.

The assailants briefly ousted demonstrators from a building they had occupied for weeks in Baghdad, despite the presence of security forces nearby who did not intervene.

The panicked protesters rushed out into the street, sending out calls through social media for people to come to their main gathering place in Tahrir Square.

Before dawn on Saturday, hundreds had arrived. “I came after the incident and there were tons of people in Tahrir and by Al-Sinek,” a nearby bridge, one demonstrator told AFP, adding he was shocked by the lax security measures.

“The police were there but didn’t even search me,” he said. Many of the new arrivals were suspected to be members of Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigades), the paramilitary group headed by Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr.

Sadr has backed the protests, but many demonstrators who were proud of their movement’s relative political independence have been wary of his support.

A source within Saraya told AFP one of its own members had died in the overnight clash, and that more unarmed members had been sent to Tahrir “to protect protesters.”

The demonstrator said he saw men in Tahrir carrying sticks and wearing cargo vests with makeshift firebombs packed inside them.

Further south in Nasiriyah, the usual rallies swelled with crowds upset over the previous night’s developments in Baghdad, an AFP correspondent said.

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