At least 490 protesters killed since October, Iraqi group says
BAGHDAD — At least 490 protesters have been killed in Baghdad and southern cities in nearly three months of anti-government rallies, Iraq’s semi-official human rights commission said Saturday.
Iraq has been roiled by protests since Oct. 1 in which demonstrators have taken to the streets to decry corruption, poor services and a lack of jobs. Protesters have also called for an end to the political system imposed after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. The uprisings prompted the resignation of former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi last month. The protesters demand an independent candidate to hold the post.
The leaderless protests — the most serious challenge for the ruling class in over a decade — were met with a crackdown by security forces. They dispersed crowds with live fire, tear gas and sonic bombs, leading to fatalities.
Faisal Abdullah, a member of the semi-official Human Rights Commission, said the 490 killed include 33 activists “assassinated” in targeted killings. More than 22,000 have been injured.
Abdullah said 56 protesters remain missing after reports they were abducted. Another 12 have been released, he said, quoting data recorded by his group, the Iraqi government and a committee looking into abduction linked to the country’s Interior Ministry.
The Human Rights Commission doesn’t assign blame for the violence.
The United Nations has said it received credible allegations of deliberate killings, abductions and arbitrary detentions carried out by unknown armed men described as ‘militia,’ ‘unknown third parties’ and ‘armed entities.’ ”
Iraqi politicians have warned of infiltrators seeking to co-opt the largely peaceful movement.
Space record: U.S. astronaut Christina Koch, 40, of Livingston, Montana, set a record Saturday for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, breaking the old mark of 288 days with about two months left in her mission.
Koch, an electrical engineer, arrived at the International Space Station on March 14. She broke the record set by former space station commander Peggy Whitson in 20162017.
Koch is expected to spend 328 days on board the space station before returning to Earth.
The U.S. record for longest space flight is 340 days set by Scott Kelly in 2015-2016. The world record is 15 months set in the 1990s by a Russian cosmonaut aboard the former Mir space station.
Iraqis launch rice paper balloons Saturday in Najaf to show solidarity with anti-government protests. An Iraqi group said hundreds of protesters have been killed since October.