Anti-government protests: eight dead in the south, the Iranian consulate in Najaf on fire

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Security forces opened fire on protesters in Nassiriya. At least 50 people injured, some of them seriously. The police attacked to regain control of two strategic bridges. Tehran condemns the attack on diplomatic representation; the authorities decree a curfew.

Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) – New victims in the south and the Iranian consulate in Najaf set on fire, with Tehran’s immediate reaction calling for harsh punishments against the perpetrators of the gesture.

The wave of violence is linked to the anti-government demonstrations that have been shaking Iraq since October 1, and that have been forcibly repressed by police and army.

The escalation deeply concerns the Chaldean Church. Yesterday the Archbishop of Basra – the most important oil center in the south – once again appealed for “new infrastructure and a Constitution” to overcome the crisis and re-launch the country.

At least eight protesters were killed in the early hours of the morning in Nassiriya, the southern Shiite holy city, a few hours after the arson attack on the Iranian consulate in nearby Najaf. This in turn fueled tension in the area and triggered a violent reaction from the police and security forces, which opened fire on protesters to regain control of two strategic bridges for the city. 50 people were injured some of whom are in a serious condition.

The police operation comes after the appointment of a new military commander in the southern province to contain demonstrations which to date have led to 360 deaths and 15,000 injured across the country.  The situation in Najaf as in other places, was exacerbated by the attack on the Iranian consulate, symbol of the Islamic Republic that the protesters accuse of holding up the strings of Iraq and condition its policies.

This is the strongest expression of the growing anti-Iranian sentiment in a substantial part of the Iraqi population, especially among protesters in the streets for two months. The consulate was evacuated in the early stages of the assault and there were no victims or injuries.

Tehran’s response has been immediate, asking the central government in Baghdad to take all necessary measures against “the aggressors” at the origin of the stake of the diplomatic representation. Abbas Mousavi, spokesman for the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, calls for “a decisive, effective and responsible action against destroyers and aggressors”.

In response, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry emphasizes that yesterday’s attack “aimed to damage historical relations between Iraq and Iran and with the rest of the nations” in the area. The violence, the note goes on, does not reflect the “perspective” of the country and “the diplomatic missions that operate” within the territory are and remain “highly appreciated and respected”.

This morning the streets of Najaf are mostly deserted; local authorities have decreed a curfew and a day of rest for all government officials.,-the-Iranian-consulate-in-Najaf-on-fire-48667.html