Iraq News

Army restores calm in al-Nasiriyah after protestors, Sadr loyalists clash

By Faris al-Omran

Unrest in al-Nasiriyah, November 29th, after supporters of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr clashed with protestors. [Photo via Dhi Qar al-Hadath Facebook page]

Unrest in al-Nasiriyah, November 29th, after supporters of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr clashed with protestors. [Photo via Dhi Qar al-Hadath Facebook page]

Iraqi officials say the government is making efforts to restore calm and stability in the city of al-Nasiriyah in Dhi Qar province, south of the country, which has been the scene of bloody violence in recent days.

Dozens were injured and several killed amid violent clashes on Friday (November 27th) between demonstrators and supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr in al-Haboubi Square, the centre of protests in al-Nasiriyah.

Responding to their leader's call to rally in Baghdad and southern Iraq, armed al-Sadr supporters gathered near the square, clashing with demonstrators who have been protesting there since last October.

Activists say al-Sadr loyalists stormed the square at night, shooting at demonstrators and setting their tents on fire.

Accusing "al-Sadr militias" of starting the violence, the "Iraqi Centre for the Documentation of War Crimes" announced it has recorded eight casualties and some 75 wounded in the clashes, which extended to neighbouring provinces.

The Iraqi government fired Dhi Qar's police chief and announced a curfew in al-Nasiriyah, Maysan and Wasit provinces. It deployed two federal police brigades to help restore calm in al-Nasiriyah on November 28th.

The government has also formed a crisis committee headed by Qasim al-Araji, senior member of Iraq's National Security Council, and appointed army and police commanders as its members.

The committee was granted "administrative, financial and security powers to protect peaceful demonstrators, state institutions and private property and to block anything that could instigate unrest", Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhemi's office stated.

The crisis committee has held meetings with a number of university professors and tribal sheikhs from Dhi Qar to discuss ways to restore normal conditions and enforce the rule of law in the province.

On Monday, al-Nasiriyah was calm amid heavy army and police deployment.

Military expert Jaleel Khalaf Shuweil told Diyaruna that given the alarming recent events in the city, the government should employ all measures to curb the influence of armed militias.

"Armed groups are challenging the authority [of the state] as they continue their activity that threatens the stability of the country and the safety of citizens," he said.

"Sweeping measures must be taken to calm the street, including arresting the killers of activists and demonstrators and holding corrupt figures accountable," he said. "The government needs to do more in the way of economic reforms that the protestors are still calling for."

"We hope the government tightens security in the province ahead of next year's parliamentary elections, as residents are looking forward to electing their representatives in stable and secure conditions," he added.

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