At least eight people were killed and 20 others were wounded amid violent clashes in Najaf on Wednesday, February 5. The violence erupted when supporters of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr attacked an anti-government protest camp, reportedly launching petrol bombs toward demonstrators. Confrontations between the two sides have occurred across Iraq in recent days after Sadr publicly supported the appointment of Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi as prime minister; anti-government protesters have largely rejected the selection of Allawi.
Associated protests are to be expected in the coming days by the anti-government movement. A heightened security presence is to be anticipated in the vicinity of any demonstration. Additional clashes between Sadrist groups and protesters are possible.
Demonstrations broke out in Iraq on October 1, 2019, to protest alleged government corruption, inadequate provision of public services, and a lack of job opportunities. Following weeks of relatively calm demonstrations, violence resumed on October 24-25, coinciding with the deadline issued by Grand Ayatollah Sistani to the government issuing them to produce a report on the members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) that were responsible for firing at civilians during previous demonstrations. An estimated 669 people have been killed and some 24,488 people have been wounded since the protests began.
Individuals in Iraq are advised to closely monitor the situation, avoid all protests and large public gatherings due to potential violence, prepare for disruptions to transportation and business in areas affected by anti-government demonstrations, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments.
The security environment in Iraq remains complex. Although travel is possible in some areas with proper security protocols in place, other areas should be considered strictly off-limits. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to all travel.