Hacked Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service ‘announces coup’
The Twitter account of the Iraqi military’s anti-terrorism unit was hacked yesterday to announce that elements of the army were moving to depose the government in a coup after weeks of mass protests met by violence by the authorities.
The claim came a day after the authorities killed at least 13 demonstrators and wounded dozens, mostly in southern Iraq, pushing the death toll in the almost two-month uprising to more than 350.
The announcement on the Iraqi elite Counter-Terrorism Service official Twitter account said that the force’s commander, Lt Gen Taleb Al Kanani, had launched a coup against what it called the illegitimate government to “halt the shedding of blood in response to the demands of the sons of the Iraqi people and the demonstrators”.
“The corrupt officials are currently being rounded up inside the Green Zone,” the announcement said, claiming that Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi would be arrested.
Yet on the ground, no such operation appeared to have been launched.
“We would like to state that the CTS’s official page was hacked by weak-spirited people,” the Joint Operations Command said yesterday.
“What was published on this page about disobedience was baseless and had no credibility at all.”
Lt Gen Al Kanani also reportedly denied that he was involved in any attempted coup.
Several government websites and social media streams have been hacked since the start of the mass uprising at the beginning of October.
One of the bloodiest days was Sunday, with government forces and Iran-backed militias focusing on pacifying impoverished regions in the south. Demonstrations continued across the country yesterday.
Most of Iraq’s oil is produced in the south and the area offers
Iraq’s only access to the sea. Demonstrators have burnt tyres and blocked main roads.
Security and hospital officials said seven protesters were killed on Sunday near the city of Umm Qasr, Iraq’s commodities port.
Security forces fired live bullets at demonstrators and used tear gas. In Basra city centre, protesters used burning tyres to cut off main roads.
Officials said four protesters were killed in Nasiriyah province, the home town of Mr Abdul Mahdi, and one each in Najaf and Diwaniyah.
Protesters are demanding the removal of the political class, regarded as corrupt and under the control of Iran.
Tribal allegiances in the south are strong, but pupils and teachers have been leading rallies outside schools and public offices in a growing civil coalition, undermining traditional methods used by the state to placate the tribes. The Education Ministry directed schools to open on Sunday but protesters in Nasiriyah defied the order.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash on Saturday called for a region-wide response to the protests in Iraq and in Lebanon by developing “a positive vision” to preserve stability.
Addressing the Manama Dialogue in Bahrain, Dr Gargash said the upheaval should spur Middle East policymakers to act.
“Along with diplomacy we need a positive vision of stability in the wider region as we see many young people take to the streets in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon,” Dr Gargash said.
“As we watch the demonstrations we recognise very clearly it is foremost about the efficacy of the political-economic system. It is secondly about corruption.
“It is really about delivery and about governance.”
An Iraqi protester in the southern city of Basra yesterday