Published: Sun, December 01, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

2 protesters dead in more Iraq violence

2 protesters dead in more Iraq violence

"In response to this call, and in order to facilitate it as quickly as possible, I will present to parliament a demand (to accept) my resignation from the leadership of the current government", said the statement, signed by Abdul Mahdi.

Iraq's current political class is drawn mainly from powerful Shi'ite politicians, clerics and paramilitary leaders including many who lived in exile before a US-led invasion overthrew Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 - including Abdul Mahdi.

Large-scale anti-government demonstrations against high unemployment rates and corruption have continued in the capital, Baghdad, as well as in cities in the central and southern parts of the country since the start of October. "The worldwide community must speak loudly and clearly, pressing for Iraq to rein in the security forces and launch effective and impartial investigations aimed at bringing to justice those responsible for unlawful killings and other serious violations".

Pictures and video showed a doorway to the city's Hakim shrine set ablaze.

Security forces have used live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades against protesters for almost two months.

The protesters are occupying part of three strategic bridges - Ahrar, Sinak and Jumhuriya - in a stand-off with security forces. In this period, President Barham Salih will lead the caretaker government.

A great number of unidentified forces in Najaf attacked protesters with live bullets, knives and batons while security forces targeted protesters directly in Nasiriyah a day after protesters burned the Iranian Consulate in Najaf.

The grassroots movement is the largest Iraq has seen in decades and also the deadliest, with more than 420 people killed and 15,000 wounded in Baghdad and the Shia-majority south, according to an AFP tally.

In a pre-recorded speech, Abdul-Mahdi referred to the rising death toll by security forces.

"We will not stop with the prime minister, we still have more fighting to do". Parliament is to convene an emergency session on Sunday to discuss the crisis.

The prime minister "had previously agreed to submit his resignation", Salih said.

Iraqi protesters have welcomed the resignation but say it is not enough.

"My understanding is this will be taken care of per Article 61", he said.

This is where the real problem comes in, experts and officials said.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani earlier urged the parliament to consider withdrawing its support for Abdul Mahdi's government to stem spiraling violence.

In the May 2018 election, neither coalition won a commanding plurality that would have enabled it to name the premier alone. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

In the latest statement, he appeared to put the timing of the resignation in the parliament's court. Abdul-Mahdi was appointed prime minister just over a year ago as a consensus candidate between political blocs.

In his speech, addressing these speculations, Abdul-Mahdi said he was acting on the advice of Iraq's chief Supreme Court judge. Only the Iraqi people have the right to determine their country's fate and the government should listen to them, he said, not to outsiders. "We need them all out, root and branch".

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