Iran yesterday condemned the burning of its consulate in southern Iraq hours earlier, which came amid an escalation in Iraq’s anti-government protests that erupted nearly two months ago.
Violence across southern Iraq had continued throughout the night, with security forces killing 16 protesters and wounded 90 since Wednesday. Protesters closed roads while a large number of police and military forces were deployed across key oil-rich provinces.
Protesters had set fire to the Iranian consulate in the holy city of Najaf late Wednesday. The Iranian staff were not harmed, and escaped out the back door. Anti-government protests have gripped Iraq since Oct. 1, when thousands took to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite south. The largely leaderless movement accuses the government of being hopelessly corrupt, and has also decried Iran’s growing influence in Iraqi state affairs.
At least 350 people have been killed by security forces, which routinely used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse crowds, sometimes shooting protesters directly with gas canisters, causing several fatalities.
Separately, the United States Embassy denounced a recent decision by Iraq’s media regulator to suspend nine television channels, calling for the Communications and Media Commission to reverse its decision. Yesterday’s statement from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad also condemned attacks and harassment against journalists.
Local channel Dijla TV had its license suspended on Tuesday, and its office was closed and its equipment confiscated, according an official from one of the channels under threat. Other channels have been asked by the regulatory commission to sign a pledge “agreeing to adhere to its rules,” said the official, who requested anonymity out of fear of reprisal.
The Islamic State group also claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s coordinated bombings in three Baghdad neighborhoods, which killed five people. That was the first apparent coordinated attack since anti-government protests began. The bombings took place far from Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of weeks of anti-government protests that have posed the biggest security challenge to Iraq since the defeat of IS.