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28 Nov 2019 | 07:17 PM UTC

Iraq: Death toll rises from protests November 28 /update 71

Officials confirm at least 40 people have been killed during nationwide demonstrations November 27-28; further protests expected over the coming days

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IRQ

Event

The death toll from violent protests in multiple cities across Iraq from Wednesday, November 27, through Thursday, November 28, has risen to at least 40 people. Around 25 people were killed after security forces used live ammunition to disperse crowds gathered on bridges in the southern city of Nasiriyah. At least 233 people were also wounded in the crackdown on protesters in the city on Thursday.

In Baghdad, four people died and another 22 were wounded when protesters attempted to storm the Ahrar Bridge. According to media reports, demonstrators have occupied parts of the Jumhuriya, Sinak, and Ahrar bridges as of Thursday night (local time). An estimated 10,000 people gathered in Tahrir Square earlier in the day and further rallies at the square are likely in the near term.

Security forces shot and killed five individuals and wounded another 32 in Najaf after crowds attempted to set the city’s central mosque on fire. Tensions have been high in Najaf since protesters set fire to the Iranian consulate on Wednesday.

Heightened security measures and disruptions to transportation and businesses are to be expected in Baghdad, Najaf, Nasiriyah, and other major urban centers over the coming days as protests continue. Clashes between protesters and security forces are likely near all protest sites.

Context

Demonstrations broke out in Iraq on October 1 to protest perceived government corruption, inadequate provision of public services, and a lack of job opportunities. Following weeks of relative calm, demonstrations violently resumed on October 24-25, coinciding with the deadline issued by Grand Ayatollah Sistani to the government to produce a report on who in the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) was responsible for firing at civilians during previous demonstrations. An estimated 350 people have been killed and 15,000 wounded since protests began.

Advice

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.