Iraqi protesters set fire to Iran consulate

By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA

Associated Press

BASRA, Iraq — Angry protesters stormed the Iranian consulate in the southern city of Basra Friday, setting a fire inside as part of ongoing demonstrations that have turned deadly in the past few days, a security official and eyewitnesses said.

At least 10 protesters have died in clashes with security forces since Monday, including three who were shot dead by security forces on Thursday night as protesters lobbed Molotov cocktails and set fire to a government building and offices of Shiite militias in the city.

The protests in Basra and other cities, the most serious to shake Iraq’s oil-rich southern Shiite heartland in years, have since July been calling for an end to endemic corruption, soaring joblessness and poor public services. Clashes erupted earlier this week, leaving several civilians and police dead. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered an investigation into the violence which shows no sign of abating.

The violence prompted the temporary head of Iraq’s parliament, the eldest lawmaker, to call an emergency meeting on today to discuss the snowballing protests.

The protesters shouted anti-Iranian slogans outside the Iranian consulate Friday evening, including “Iran, out, out!” before they stormed it and set a fire inside. Smoke could be seen rising from the building. Protesters also burned an Iranian flag. Many residents of the predominantly Shiite city accuse Iranian-backed political parties of interfering with Iraqi politics and some hold them responsible for mismanagement and the poor services in the city.