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Iraq: Najaf protestors clash with police in Najaf

Women wearing protective face masks, following an outbreak of coronavirus, chant slogans as they protest during the International Women's Day in Baghdad, Iraq, March 8, 2020. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

Violent clashes between protestors and police in Iraq erupted in front of local government headquarters in the country's Najaf governorate yesterday, with demands including government reforms and the identification of those who previously killed demonstrators.

According to Iraqi media, the confrontations reached all the way to the home of Najaf's Governor Luay Al-Yasiri, which was set on fire while several members of the security forces were injured by the protestors.

Among the protestors' demands was for Al-Yasiri, his deputies, and the directors of the governorate's districts to be dismissed by the Iraqi government. Witnesses reported that police and security forces fired live bullets and tear gas at the protestors to disperse them, while the governorate's police department called on the protestors to exercise restraint and to prevent their ranks from being exploited by "infiltrators".

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In a statement yesterday, the police department said: "The Najaf Governorate Police Directorate calls on all peaceful demonstrators and installations to the need for restraint and cooperation with the security services working to protect the demonstrators."

Najaf, home to holy sites of Shia Muslims and located in southern Iraq, witnessed violent protests late last year and earlier this year as Iraqis demonstrated against the economic situation, government corruption and Iranian influence within the country. In response, security forces and pro-Iran Shia militias fired into the protestors, with kidnappings and disappearances of the protestors drastically increasing.

Over the weekend, protests also erupted in Al-Muthanna and Al-Diwaniyah Governorates, with demonstrators calling for the removal of their governors, the implementation of local reform measures and the selection of a judge to rule the province instead.

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