Iraqi demonstrators burn tires to block a street during ongoing anti-government protests in Najaf, Iraq November 28, 2019.(REUTERS)
Iraqi demonstrators burn tires to block a street during ongoing anti-government protests in Najaf, Iraq November 28, 2019.(REUTERS)

Iraqi forces kill 45 protesters after Iranian consulate torched

At least 29 people died in the southern city of Nassiriya when troops opened fire on demonstrators who blocked a bridge before dawn on Thursday and later gathered outside a police station. Police and medical sources said dozens of others were wounded.
By Reuters | Baghdad, Iraq
UPDATED ON NOV 29, 2019 07:17 AM IST

Iraqi security forces shot dead at least 45 protesters on Thursday after demonstrators stormed and torched an Iranian consulate overnight, in what could mark a turning point in the uprising against the Tehran-backed authorities.

At least 29 people died in the southern city of Nassiriya when troops opened fire on demonstrators who blocked a bridge before dawn on Thursday and later gathered outside a police station. Police and medical sources said dozens of others were wounded.

Four people were killed in Baghdad, where security forces opened fire with live ammunition and rubber bullets against protesters near a bridge over the Tigris river, the sources said, and twelve died in clashes in Najaf.

In Nassiriya thousands of mourners took to the streets, defying a curfew to bury their dead after the mass shooting.

Video of protesters cheering in the night as flames billowed from the consulate were a stunning image after years in which Tehran’s influence among Shi’ite Muslims in Arab states has been a defining factor in Middle East politics.

The bloodshed that followed was one of the most violent days since the uprising began at the start of October, with anti-corruption demonstrations that swelled into a revolt against authorities seen by young demonstrators as stooges of Tehran.

Iran closed the Mehran border crossing to Iraq on Thursday night because of security reasons, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported, citing a local border official.

“With attention to the recent events and the unrest in the country of Iraq the Mehran border has been closed from tonight,” Mojtaba Soleimani, the manager of the border post said, according to Mehr.

He said it was not clear when the border would reopen.

In Najaf, a city of ancient pilgrimage shrines that serves as seat of Iraq’s powerful Shi’ite clergy, the Iranian consulate was reduced to a charred ruin after it was stormed overnight.

The protesters, overwhelmingly Shi’ite, accused the Iraqi authorities of turning against their own people to defend Iran.

“All the riot police in Najaf and the security forces started shooting at us as if we were burning Iraq as a whole,” a protester who witnessed the burning of the consulate told Reuters, asking not to be identified.

Another protester, Ali, described the attack on the consulate as “a brave act and a reaction from the Iraqi people. We don’t want the Iranians”.

But he predicted more violence: “There will be revenge from Iran, I’m sure. They’re still here and the security forces are going to keep shooting at us.”

Iran’s foreign ministry condemned the attack and demanded “the Iraqi government’s firm response to the aggressors”.

So far, the authorities have been unyielding in response to the unrest, shooting dead hundreds of demonstrators with live ammunition and tear gas, while floating proposals for political reform that the protesters dismiss as trivial and cosmetic.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has so far rejected calls to resign, after meetings with senior politicians that were attended by the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, the elite unit that directs its militia allies abroad.

Abdul Mahdi on Thursday summoned a senior military commander in Dhi Qar province, where Nassiriya is located, to Baghdad to explain why the situation had deteriorated, a military statement said.

“CUT THE HANDS”

In a statement that indicated more violence was to come, the military commander of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), an umbrella group of paramilitary groups whose most powerful factions are close to Iran, suggested the overnight unrest in Najaf was a threat to Shi’ite clergy based in the city.

The paramilitary fighters would use full force against anyone who threatened Iraq’s most senior Shi’ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis said in a statement posted on the PMF website.

“We will cut the hand of anyone trying to get near al-Sistani,” he said.

Influential populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr issued a fresh call for the government to resign, while warning those who torched the embassy that they risked provoking a violent backlash from the authorities.

“Do not give them cover to end your revolution, and stay clear of religious sites,” he said in a statement on Twitter. If the government does not resign, “this is the beginning of the end of Iraq,” he said.

Fanar Haddad, senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute, said the government and its paramilitary allies could use the consulate incident to justify crushing the demonstrations.

“It sends a message to Iran, but it also works to the advantage of people like Muhandis,” he said. The paramilitaries could use the consulate incident as “a pretext to clamp down, framing what happened as a threat against Sistani.”

Sistani himself has appeared to back the protesters since the unrest erupted, calling on politicians to meet the popular demands for reform.

Authorities set up “crisis cells” in several provinces to try to restore order, a military statement said on Thursday. They would be led by provincial governors but include military leaders who would take charge of local security forces.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Topics
Close
"In the end, Iran needs to understand that what’s important is to de-escalate and accept the offer of diplomacy that’s on the table, including from the United States,” German foreign minister Heiko Maas said.(AFP Photo)
"In the end, Iran needs to understand that what’s important is to de-escalate and accept the offer of diplomacy that’s on the table, including from the United States,” German foreign minister Heiko Maas said.(AFP Photo)

Germany urges Iran to accept diplomacy in nuclear dispute

AP
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 12:12 AM IST
Iran this week effectively set a deadline to lift those sanctions within three months, after which it said it would erase surveillance footage of its nuclear facilities
Close
The B117 variant last week became dominant in Denmark, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all new infections, up from less than 5% at the beginning of the year.(Reuters Photo. Representative image)
The B117 variant last week became dominant in Denmark, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all new infections, up from less than 5% at the beginning of the year.(Reuters Photo. Representative image)

Hospitalisation risk 64% higher with UK Covid-19 variant: Report

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 12:08 AM IST
Out of 2,155 people infected with the variant codenamed B117 in the institute's study, 128 were hospitalised, a rate 64% higher than people infected with other variants, the country's Serum Institute said.
Close
DeJoy, a supporter of former President Donald Trump appointed to head the Postal Service last year, suspended operational changes in August after heavy criticism over postal delays.(Bloomberg)
DeJoy, a supporter of former President Donald Trump appointed to head the Postal Service last year, suspended operational changes in August after heavy criticism over postal delays.(Bloomberg)

Congress weighs reforms to troubled US Postal Service over finance woes

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:38 PM IST
"Our dire financial trajectory, operational and network misalignment to mail trends, outdated pricing, infrastructure underinvestment, inadequate people engagement, and an insufficient growth strategy – all demand immediate action," Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told lawmakers.
Close
Officials said the EU was working with the IATA, the OECD and the World Health Organization.(AFP)
Officials said the EU was working with the IATA, the OECD and the World Health Organization.(AFP)

EU mulls vaccination passports to resurrect tourism after Covid-19

Reuters, Brussels
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:12 PM IST
However, France and Germany appear more reluctant, as officials there say it could create de facto vaccination obligation.
Close
Vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. (AFP)
Vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. (AFP)

J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine closes in on FDA’s nod

By Yashwant Raj
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:06 PM IST
According to papers submitted by Johnson & Johnson to the FDA seeking emergency use go-ahead, the vaccine has demonstrated an overall efficacy level of 66% - 72% in the United States and 57% in South Africa, a country that is dealing with a highly contagious strain of the coronavirus.
Close
Fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi. (HT File)
Fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi. (HT File)

PNB scam case: UK judge to rule on Nirav Modi extradition case on Thursday

Posted by Prashasti Singh | PTI
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:01 PM IST
The 49-year-old is expected to appear via videolink from Wandsworth Prison in south-west London at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, where District Judge Samuel Goozee is set to hand down his judgment on whether the jeweller has a case to answer before the Indian courts.
Close
William Burns, nominee for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director, is sworn into his Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.(REUTERS)
William Burns, nominee for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director, is sworn into his Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.(REUTERS)

CIA nominee pledges to provide 'unvarnished' intelligence

PTI, Washington
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 10:48 PM IST
William Burns said the president "wants the agency to give it to him straight, and I plan to do just that and to defend those who do the same."
Close
Rescue divers conduct search operations for victims of a capsized boat in Lake Mariout, 20 kilometres west of Egypt's second city of Alexandria on February 23, 2021.(AFP)
Rescue divers conduct search operations for victims of a capsized boat in Lake Mariout, 20 kilometres west of Egypt's second city of Alexandria on February 23, 2021.(AFP)

UN says 41 Europe-bound migrants fleeing Libya drown in Mediterranean

AP
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 10:09 PM IST
  • The UN migration and refugee agencies said in a joint statement that the dead were among at least 120 migrants on a dinghy that left Libya on February 18.
Close
At its last plenary in October 2020, FATF concluded that Pakistan had fully complied with 21 of 27 points in the action plan but warned the country that it could not be given “forever” to address outstanding issues. (FILE PHOTO).
At its last plenary in October 2020, FATF concluded that Pakistan had fully complied with 21 of 27 points in the action plan but warned the country that it could not be given “forever” to address outstanding issues. (FILE PHOTO).

FATF to take a call on Pakistan's efforts to counter terror financing tomorrow

PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 10:06 PM IST
  • FATF’s latest plenary is also being held at a time when the US has been irked by the Pakistan Supreme Court’s acquittal of terrorist Omar Saeed Sheikh, the principal accused in the 2002 murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl.
Close
Screengrab from “confessional” video of former Taliban spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan.(YouTube)
Screengrab from “confessional” video of former Taliban spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan.(YouTube)

Pakistan military personnel punished over escape of Taliban figure: Spokesperson

Reuters, Rawalpindi
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 09:40 PM IST
Liaqat Ali, the former public face of the militant Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), escaped last year three years after he handed himself in to the military.
Close
Asylum seekers sit inside a tent at a migrant encampment in Matamoros, Mexico.(REUTERS)
Asylum seekers sit inside a tent at a migrant encampment in Matamoros, Mexico.(REUTERS)

US to admit asylum seekers from hard-hit camp at Texas border

Reuters, Washington
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 09:11 PM IST
The camp, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, is home to hundreds of migrants, most from Central America, hoping to be granted refuge across the border.
Close
Zollfahndungsamt Hamburg shows a detail of cocaine after German authorities seized more than 16 tonnes of cocaine in the northern port city of Hamburg, Germany.(REUTERS)
Zollfahndungsamt Hamburg shows a detail of cocaine after German authorities seized more than 16 tonnes of cocaine in the northern port city of Hamburg, Germany.(REUTERS)

Over 23 tonnes of cocaine seized in Europe's biggest haul

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 09:04 PM IST
The two shipments together represented a street value of roughly $730 million, the Dutch prosecutors said.
Close
A 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry report said the prisoners are facing torture, rape, forced labour, starvation and other inhumane treatment.(AP)
A 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry report said the prisoners are facing torture, rape, forced labour, starvation and other inhumane treatment.(AP)

North Korea enslaving political prisoners to fund weapons programme: Report

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 08:54 PM IST
According to the report, Pyongyang had been operating a "pyramid fraud-like" scheme to force those held in prison camps to produce quotas of coal and other goods for export.
Close
The sun sets over the skyscrapers of the City of London financial district, amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in London, Britain.(Reuters)
The sun sets over the skyscrapers of the City of London financial district, amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in London, Britain.(Reuters)

Number of women on UK corporate boards rises 50% in 5 years

AP
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 08:43 PM IST
The number of women on the boards of directors of Britain’s 350 top publicly traded firms has jumped by more than 50% since 2015, meaning that 34.3% of all board seats are now held by women, an independent panel said in a report published Wednesday.
Close
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan Khan looks on at the Trade and Investments conference during his two-day visit in Colombo, Sri Lanka February 24, 2021. (REUTERS)
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan Khan looks on at the Trade and Investments conference during his two-day visit in Colombo, Sri Lanka February 24, 2021. (REUTERS)

Pak, India can resolve Kashmir issue through dialogue: Imran Khan says in Lanka

PTI, Colombo
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 08:29 PM IST
"Our only dispute is Kashmir and it can only be resolved through dialogue," he said.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP