Unrest Grows In Southern Iraq As Protestors Continue To Clash With Security Forces
Deadly unrest in the southern Iraqi city of Basra continued Wednesday afternoon after a group of protestors blocked the entrance to the deep water Umm Qasr port. The demonstrators are demanding more access to and better quality government services, according to a report from Reuters.
“Protesters have blocked the main entrance to the port. Trucks that carry supplies can’t enter or leave the facility,” said one port official, while speaking to Reuters.
Shortly before they cut off the Umm Qasr docks, the protestors hit a critical “provincial government building” with rocks, and eventually set the building on fire. They also set up roadblocks on the stretch of highway between Basra and Baghdad.
According to Al Jazeera, Iraqi security forces clashed with the protestors on Wednesday near the government building, opening fire with a combination of small arms and tear gas canisters.
Wednesday marked the third straight day that the demonstrations in Basra turned violent. On Tuesday, six protestors were killed by Iraqi security forces, and another 12 were injured after they stormed a government office building, according to Al Jazeera. Another demonstrator was killed Monday night, and an additional six were wounded.
Iraqi officials told Reuters that 22 security force members had been wounded so far.
Many officials fear the continued violence will harm the region’s oil production, which provides Iraq with much-needed cash. Others are worried that if the port doesn’t reopen soon, the country may face food shortages. The protestors have argued that the city’s deteriorating infrastructure has left the water polluted and unsafe for consumption.