Basra airport targeted by rocket fire as violent protests grip Iraq

BASRA/ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – Basra airport was targeted by rocket fire on Saturday after a night of protests over perceived misrule by Iraq’s political elite during which demonstrators torched the Iranian consulate and briefly took oilfield workers hostage. Iraqi security sources said three Katyusha rockets fired by unknown assailants had hit the perimeter of the airport, although no damage or casualties had been reported. The U.S. consulate is adjacent to Basra’s airport. An official at the Iraqi airport said there was no disruption to operations, and flights were taking off and landing as normal. The attack came shortly after a citywide curfew was lifted and hours after the reopening of Iraq’s main seaport of Umm Qasr where protesters had blocked the port’s entrance, forcing a halt to all operations. Basra, Iraq’s second biggest city, has been roiled by five days of deadly demonstrations, in which government buildings have been ransacked and set alight by protesters angry over political corruption. Protests first erupted in July over poor government services, but intensified this week. On Friday, protesters broke into the Iranian consulate, shouting condemnation of what many perceive as Iran’s sway over Iraq’s political affairs, and set it alight. Iran and Iraq both strongly condemned the move, raising fears of possible retribution. Another group of protesters entered a water treatment facility linked to the West Qurna 2 oilfield, held two Iraqi employees hostage for about an hour before leaving peacefully. Production was not disrupted, a manager at the oilfield said. Parliament convened an emergency session to discuss the escalating crisis in Basra on Saturday afternoon, when Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned against the politicization of the crisis. “Politics should be separated from security and services,” he said, warning that the situation could descend into armed conflict. At a cabinet meeting earlier on Saturday, ministers agreed to send a delegation to Basra, and Abadi said he had ordered an investigation into the security forces “for not fulfilling their duties” in protecting government buildings and the Iranian consulate. The heads of Basra Operations Command and the Basra Police were both sacked on Saturday. WATER PROTESTS Three protesters died on Friday and 48 more were wounded, 26 of whom were shot, sources said, while two members of the security force were wounded. At least 13 protesters have died, some in clashes with security forces, since Monday and dozens more have been wounded. The unrest has thrust Iraq into a major crisis at a time when politicians still have yet to agree a new government after an inconclusive election in May. The new parliament met for the first time on Monday, but failed to elect a speaker, much less name a new prime minister. The streets were calm on Saturday. Organizers of the demonstrations said they would pause protests on Saturday following the evening’s escalation, while additional security forces have been deployed as backup. Residents in Basra, a city of more than two million people, say they have been driven to the streets by corruption and misrule that allowed infrastructure to collapse, leaving no power or safe drinking water in the heat of summer. They say the water supply has become contaminated with salt, making them vulnerable and desperate in the hot summer months, and thousands of people have been hospitalized from drinking it. window.RCOM_Data = {“header_tz0spps2yw”:{“template”:”header”,”evergreens”:[{“url”:”https://www.reuters.com/news/world”,”name”:”World”,”sponsored”:false},{“url”:”https://www.reuters.com/finance”,”name”:”Business”,”sponsored”:false},{“url”:”https://www.reuters.com/finance/markets”,”name”:”Markets”,”sponsored”:false},{“url”:”https://www.reuters.com/politics”,”name”:”Politics”,”sponsored”:false},{“url”:”https://www.reuters.tv/”,”name”:”TV”,”sponsored”:false}],”topics”:[{“url”:”https://www.reuters.com/subjects/myanmar-reporters”,”name”:”Detained In Myanmar”,”sponsored”:false},{“url”:”https://www.reuters.com/energy-environment”,”name”:”Energy u0026 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airport targeted by rocket fire as violent protests grip Iraq”,”authors”:[{“name”:”Aref Mohammed”,”journalist_url”:”/journalists/aref-mohammed”},{“name”:”Raya Jalabi”,”journalist_url”:”/journalists/raya-jalabi”}],”shareUrl”:”https://reut.rs/2NrseVi”,”published”:1536399446,”updated”:1536408557,”path”:”/article/us-iraq-protests/basra-airport-targeted-by-rocket-fire-as-violent-protests-grip-iraq-idUSKCN1LO0DV”,”location”:”BASRA/ERBIL, Iraq”,”body”:”u003cpu003eBy Aref Mohammed and Raya Jalabiu003c/pu003enu003cpu003eBASRA/ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – Basra airport was targeted by rocket fire on Saturday after a night of protests over perceived misrule by Iraqu0027s political elite during which demonstrators torched the Iranian consulate and briefly took oilfield workers hostage.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eIraqi security sources said three Katyusha rockets fired by unknown assailants had hit the perimeter of the airport, although no damage or casualties had been reported. The U.S. consulate is adjacent to Basrau0027s airport.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eAn official at the Iraqi airport said there was no disruption to operations, and flights were taking off and landing as normal.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eThe attack came shortly after a citywide curfew was lifted and hours after the reopening of Iraqu0027s main seaport of Umm Qasr where protesters had blocked the portu0027s entrance, forcing a halt to all operations.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eBasra, Iraqu0027s second biggest city, has been roiled by five days of deadly demonstrations, in which government buildings have been ransacked and set alight by protesters angry over political corruption. Protests first erupted in July over poor government services, but intensified this week. u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eOn Friday, protesters broke into the Iranian consulate, shouting condemnation of what many perceive as Iranu0027s sway over Iraqu0027s political affairs, and set it alight. Iran and Iraq both strongly condemned the move, raising fears of possible retribution.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eAnother group of protesters entered a water treatment facility linked to the West Qurna 2 oilfield, held two Iraqi employees hostage for about an hour before leaving peacefully. Production was not disrupted, a manager at the oilfield said.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eParliament convened an emergency session to discuss the escalating crisis in Basra on Saturday afternoon, when Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned against the politicization of the crisis. u003c/pu003enu003cpu003e”Politics should be separated from security and services,” he said, warning that the situation could descend into armed conflict. u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eAt a cabinet meeting earlier on Saturday, ministers agreed to send a delegation to Basra, and Abadi said he had ordered an investigation into the security forces “for not fulfilling their duties” in protecting government buildings and the Iranian consulate.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eThe heads of Basra Operations Command and the Basra Police were both sacked on Saturday.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eu003c/pu003enu003cpu003eWATER PROTESTS u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eThree protesters died on Friday and 48 more were wounded, 26 of whom were shot, sources said, while two members of the security force were wounded.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eAt least 13 protesters have died, some in clashes with security forces, since Monday and dozens more have been wounded.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eThe unrest has thrust Iraq into a major crisis at a time when politicians still have yet to agree a new government after an inconclusive election in May. The new parliament met for the first time on Monday, but failed to elect a speaker, much less name a new prime minister.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eThe streets were calm on Saturday. Organizers of the demonstrations said they would pause protests on Saturday following the eveningu0027s escalation, while additional security forces have been deployed as backup. u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eResidents in Basra, a city of more than two million people, say they have been driven to the streets by corruption and misrule that allowed infrastructure to collapse, leaving no power or safe drinking water in the heat of summer.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eThey say the water supply has become contaminated with salt, making them vulnerable and desperate in the hot summer months, and thousands of people have been hospitalized from drinking it.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eu003c/pu003en”,”attribution”:{“type”:”default”,”content”:”Reporting by Aref Mohammed in Basra and Raya Jalabi in Erbil; writing by Raya Jalabi; editing by Alexander Smith and Clelia Oziel”},”channel_stories”:[{“id”:”USKCN1LO03R”,”updated”:1536378384,”headline”:”U.S. military drawing up options should Syria use chemical weapons”,”path”:”/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-usa/u-s-military-drawing-up-options-should-syria-use-chemical-weapons-idUSKCN1LO03R”,”image”:”//s1.reutersmedia.net/resources/r/?mu003d02u0026du003d20180908u0026tu003d1u0026iu003d1302073900u0026ru003dLYNXNPEE87042″},{“id”:”USKCN1LO07Z”,”updated”:1536394275,”headline”:”U.S. sends Iran messages u0027every dayu0027 to begin negotiations: Iran president”,”path”:”/article/us-nuclear-iran/u-s-sends-iran-messages-every-day-to-begin-negotiations-iran-president-idUSKCN1LO07Z”,”image”:”//s4.reutersmedia.net/resources/r/?mu003d02u0026du003d20180908u0026tu003d1u0026iu003d1302141244u0026ru003dLYNXNPEE87099″},{“id”:”USKCN1LO0EO”,”updated”:1536401852,”headline”:”Russian and Syrian jets pound Idlib province after summit”,”path”:”/article/us-mideast-syria-idlib/russian-and-syrian-jets-pound-idlib-province-after-summit-idUSKCN1LO0EO”}],”description”:”Basra airport was targeted by rocket fire on Saturday after a night of protests over perceived misrule by Iraqu0027s political elite during which demonstrators torched the Iranian consulate and briefly took oilfield work”,”dart_zone”:”us.reuters/world/article”,”link_to_parent”:false,”show_others_in_parent”:false,”canvas_enable”:false},”translations”:{“shared”:{“disclaimer”:”Disclaimer”,”sponsored_content”:”Sponsored”,”related_coverage”:”Related Coverage”,”sponsored_topics”:”Sponsored”,”sponsored_stories”:”Sponsored”,”updated”:”Updated []”,”slideshow”:”Slideshow”,”featured”:”Featured”,”edition”:”Edition”,”trending”:”Trending”,”advertisement”:”Advertisement”,”visit_now”:”Visit Now”,”show_full_article”:”Show Full Article”,”breaking_news”:”Breaking News”,”live_update”:”Live Update”,”the_wire”:”The Wire”,”image_count”:”[] Images”,”sections”:”Sections”,”get_the_app_banner_top”:”Better questions. 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