‘Outlaw criminals’ responsible for Baghdad protest shooting, says Barham Salih

‘Outlaw criminals’ responsible for Baghdad protest shooting, says Barham Salih
‘Outlaw criminals’ responsible for Baghdad protest shooting, says Barham Salih

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Iraq’s president has blamed “criminal and outlaw gangs” for an attack on protesters in Bagdad on Friday which left 25 dead and 130 injured.

The attack was the latest in a series of escalations, including a string of suspicious stabbing incidents on Thursday in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Iraq’s leaderless protest movement.

President Barham Salih condemned Friday’s attack, in which gunmen in cars opened fire on Baghdad’s Khilani Square. He said the shootings were carried out by “criminal and outlaw gangs” and criticised security forces for failing to protect the demonstrators. He also said government forces did not “chase the outlaw criminals and arrest them and bring them to the judiciary for punishment.”

At least 400 people have died since the leaderless uprising shook Iraq on October 1, with thousands of Iraqis taking to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite southern Iraq decrying corruption, poor services, lack of jobs and calling for an end to the political system that was imposed after the 2003 US invasion.

The demonstrators gained some wins last week as the country’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi agreed to resign, an offer that was accepted by parliament.

Mr Abdul Mahdi and his government will stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new government can be chosen, the prime minister said last week.

On Sunday a list of conditions for choosing the next prime minister signed by 120 MPs was submitted to Mr Salih, Iraqi State news service INA reported.

Iraq's top Shiite cleric Ali Al Sistani said a new prime minister must be chosen without foreign interference. His comments came after reports that senior Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani had been in Baghdad this week to rally support for a new government that would continue to serve Iran's interests.

Mr Al Sistani has repeatedly condemned the killing of unarmed protesters and has also urged demonstrators to remain peaceful and stop saboteurs turning their opposition violent.

"We hope a new head of government and its members will be chosen within the constitutional deadline" of 15 days since the resignation was formalised in parliament on Sunday, a representative of Mr Al Sistani said in his Friday sermon in Kerbala.

"It must also take place without any foreign interference," he said, adding that Sistani would not get involved in the process of choosing a new government.

Washington on Friday imposed sanctions on three Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary leaders who it accused of directing the killing of Iraqi protesters. A senior US Treasury official suggested the sanctions were timed to distance those figures from any role in forming a new government.

Updated: December 8, 2019 03:20 PM

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