Angry demonstrators in Iraq’s port city of Basra have set government buildings on fire after returning to the streets to continue deadly protests over corruption and lack of better public services.
Hundreds of people flooded the streets of Iraq’s second-biggest city on Thursday, and set fire to the headquarters of the local government, the ruling Dawa Party, the Supreme Islamic Council and the Badr Organization.
Some of the demonstrators also set on fire the offices of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia and the offices of the Hikma Movement about 100 km (60 miles) north of Basra, while storming the house of the acting head of the provincial council.
Several other buildings of the provincial government, including the offices of the state-run Iraqiya TV, were among some of the other places that came under attack. Protesters also blocked the main roads in the city center.
Basra’s security officials announced a curfew from 10:30 pm local time (1930 GMT) later in the day to help end the protests. They had initially planned to announce the curfew at 3 pm.
The violence led to clashes with security guards, killing at least three people. One protester died from burns sustained during the unrest, sources within Iraq’s health and security ministries said.
That brings the total death toll of the protests to 10 since they began on Monday.
The Iraqi army on Wednesday blamed “unidentified gunmen” for the Tuesday death of six protesters. “The protesters slain yesterday in downtown Basra were killed by unknown gunmen in a car,” army commander Jamil al-Shammari said in a statement.
The protesters have also managed to shutter the port of Umm Qasr, Iraq’s main seaport and its principle lifeline for importing grain and other commodities.
Meanwhile, oil exports were not affected by the unrest in the city, which accounts for some 95 percent of the country’s crude exports.
The protesters complain that their region suffered from decades of neglect by the central government while producing the bulk of Iraq’s oil wealth.
The growing anger comes at a time when Iraq’s political parties are trying to form a government after an inconclusive parliamentary election in May, which saw powerful cleric Muqtada al-Sadr win the most votes and form a coalition with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s party, who only came in third after Hashd al-Shaabi.
Sadr has called on the parliament to hold an emergency televised session to discuss the crisis in Basra, a city that he said was “without water, electricity or dignity.”
Mortars rip through Baghdad’s Green Zone
Also on Thursday night, Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone was hit with three mortar shells.
The attack caused “no casualties or physical damage” as the mortars landed on an “abandoned lot,” the Iraqi military said in a statement.
An unnamed source told Reuters that the mortars hit an area near the Egyptian embassy.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.