By Aref Mohammed
BASRA, Iraq, Sept 4 – A protester has died and six more were wounded in clashes with security forces in Iraq’s southern oil hub Basra on Monday night, local health and security sources said.
Protesters threw petrol bombs cocktails and stones at security forces, who responded by firing shots into the air and tear gas, securioty sources said.
Hundreds of people had gathered near Basra’s provincial government headquarters to press demands for better public services and an end corruption. The crowd averaged about 600-700 people at its peak, but thinned throughout the night.
Health sources said six protesters were taken to hospitals after sustaining injuries during the protests.
The local head of Iraq’s Human Rights Commission, Mahdi al-Tamimi, called for an immediate investigation into the protester’s death.
“We call on the Iraqi judiciary to open an immediate and urgent investigation into the killing of a demonstrator who was shot in the shoulder and subjected to electric shocks by security forces,” Tamimi said in a statement.
Protests have swept cities in the long neglected south, Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim heartland, over electricity outages during the hot Iraqi summer, a lack of jobs and proper government services, and entrenched graft.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi suspended the electricity minister last month and said on Monday that his government had begun punishing those responsible for poor services in Basra, Iraq’s second biggest city.
But public anger has swelled at a time when politicians are struggling to form a new government after an inconclusive parliamentary election in May. Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has expressed support for the protests.
On Friday, hundreds of protesters clashed with security forces in Basra as they tried to break into the provincial government headquarters. (Reporting by Aref Mohammed; writing by Raya Jalabi, editing by Angus MacSwan)