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Rockets fired at Basra airport as violent protests grip Iraq

September 9, 2018 at 12:36 pm

Iraqi’s come together to protest calling for better public services in Basra, Iraq

Basra airport was attacked with rockets on Saturday after another night of protests against Iraq’s political elite, during which demonstrators set fire to the Iranian consulate and briefly took oilfield workers hostage.

Iraq’s second city has been rocked by five days of demonstrations, in which government buildings have been ransacked and set alight by protesters angry over political corruption. Protests first erupted in July over poor government services, but intensified this week.

Organisers of the demonstrations said they would pause on Saturday, but there was still a heavy presence of security forces in the city of more than 2 million people as a curfew resumed at 4 p.m. (1300 GMT), with streets emptying out.

Security sources said three Katyusha rockets fired by unknown assailants had hit the perimeter of the airport, although no damage or casualties had been reported. The U.S. consulate is adjacent to the airport.

An airport official said there had been no disruption to operations.

The attack came shortly after the overnight curfew was lifted and hours after the reopening of Iraq’s main seaport, Umm Qasr, which protesters had paralysed by blocking its entrance.

On Friday, protesters broke into the Iranian consulate, shouting condemnation of what many see as Iran’s sway over Iraq’s affairs, and set it alight. Iran and Iraq both strongly condemned the move, raising fears of possible retribution.

Another group of protesters entered a water treatment facility linked to the West Qurna 2 oilfield and held two workers hostage for about an hour before leaving peacefully. Production was not disrupted, a manager at the oilfield said.