Security forces deploy in Iraq's Najaf after day of protests

Police End Protests At Iraq's Southern Oil Fields | OilPrice.com

"Some protesters tried to break into the building, but we prevented them. We had no choice but to open fire".

Similar protests have occurred in the past in Basra, but the latest unrest comes at a politically sensitive time.

The prime minister also ordered security services not to use live fire against the unarmed protesters. Iraq is undergoing a vote recount after May's national elections, stalling efforts to form a new government.

The elections, the fourth since the US -led invasion that toppled ruler Saddam Hussein, saw the lowest turnout in 15 years and were marred with allegations of fraud and irregularities. It was not clear who killed them but Kanani said there had been "indiscriminate gunfire" in the city. He held up a piece of cardboard to shield his head from the scorching sun.

On Saturday protestors in the city of Basra tried to set fire to the office of the Iranian-supported Badr organisation, setting off clashes with security forces.

Security forces also faced demonstrations about four km from Eni's Zubair oil field near Basra, a crumbling oil-exporting city.

At least 30 people were wounded on Saturday night in the central holy city of Karbala, where an AFP reporter said police fired into the air as demonstrators threw stones at them. One person died earlier this week in Maysan when Iraqi forces shot at protesters reportedly trying to set fire to government buildings.

Iraqi policemen are seen during a protest in Baghdad, Iraq July 16, 2018.

Sistani rarely intervenes in politics but has wide sway over public opinion. The unreliability of electricity in southern Iraq was exacerbated this year by a drought, which significantly reduced power production at the nation's hydroelectric dams, and by Iran's large reduction in the amount of electricity it provides to Iraq as a result of a dispute regarding payment.

The oil sector accounts for 89 percent of the state budget and 99 percent of Iraq s export revenues, but only one percent of jobs, as the majority of posts are filled by foreigners.

The Iraqi PM has issued a nationwide order placing security forces on high alert in the southern provinces
The Iraqi PM has issued a nationwide order placing security forces on high alert in the southern provinces

Any disruption could have a severe impact on the country's limping economy and push up global oil prices.

Air traffic was temporarily suspended on Friday when protesters stormed Najaf's global airport. Flyudubai also followed suit.

Cuts to internet service reportedly took place in Baghdad, Najaf and Basra.

State television said Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi had announced the government would release funds to Basra for water, electricity, and health services.

Substantial relief is unlikely to come anytime soon for Basra, once dubbed the "Venice of the Middle East" for its network of canals resembling the Italian city. The unrest comes as Iraq struggles to rebuild after a devastating three-year war against Islamic State group jihadists, and with the country in political limbo following May elections.

BAGHDAD-Iraqi authorities deployed troops across the country's south and blocked access to the internet as protests over poor government services grew violent, with demonstrators breaking into oil facilities, burning political-party offices and shutting Najaf Airport.

Police confronted protesters in Basra when they gathered near an oil field operated by Russian oil firm Lukoil.

"Since the fall of Saddam in 2003 and until now the only real thing Shiite politicians have been saying is their lies", said Usama Abbas, 25, an unemployed college graduate.

The demonstrators have taken the unusual step of attacking buildings belonging to powerful Shia militias, in addition to local government headquarters.

Abadi, who also serves as commander-in-chief of Iraq's armed forces, issued a nationwide order on Sunday placing security forces on high alert in the southern provinces, aiming to stem the burgeoning protests.

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