Mark Esper urges Iraq to prevent attacks on US military bases

Mark Esper urges Iraq to prevent attacks on US military bases
Mark Esper urges Iraq to prevent attacks on US military bases

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Washington urged Baghdad on Monday to take measures to prevent US military bases from being attacked as nationwide demonstrations continue to rock Iraq.

US Secretary of Defence, Mark Esper, spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on the phone after a senior military official warned last week that attacks by Iranian-backed groups were pushing all sides closer to an uncontrollable escalation.

Mr Esper "expressed his concerns over the shelling of some installations and the necessity to take procedures to stop it," a statement from Mr Abdul Mahdi's office quoted the Pentagon chief as saying during a phone call.

The Iraqi official warned Mr Esper that "unilateral action could have negative consequences that will be difficult to control and might jeopardise Iraq's sovereignty".

Mr Abdul Mahdi resigned last month under pressure from mass anti-government protests.

He is carrying out his duties in a caretaker capacity until political leaders reach a deal to choose his successor.

His resignation followed nationwide protests fuelled by anger over political corruption and Iran’s influence in Iraqi politics, as well as the government’s violent response to the protesters demands.

Over 400 people have been killed and tens of thousands injured in the unrest, the United Nations said.

It comes as the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights called the government to ensure its security forces halt their “dangerous escalation against the demonstrators”.

This includes kidnapping, threatening and targeting protesters and activists.

Arshad Salihi, the head of the parliamentary human rights committee held the government responsible for “protecting the demonstrators.”

“Abductions, assassinations and enforced disappearances against the protesters violates the principles of human rights,” Mr Salihi said.

The statement came as a supporter of the anti-government protests died of gun shot wounds on Sunday.

Mohammed Al Doujaili, 24, was shot in the back near Baghdad's Tahrir Square, which has been a hub for the protests, on Saturday night, police said.

Another man who was with him was wounded in the same attack, and Mr Al Doujaili died of his wounds at a Baghdad hospital Sunday morning, relatives said.

He became the fourth protester to be killed by unidentified assailants over the past two weeks.

Amnesty International on Friday urged Baghdad to clamp down on what it called a "campaign of terror targeting protesters".

Updated: December 16, 2019 06:42 PM

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