At least 490 protesters killed since Oc­to­ber, Iraqi group says

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - NATION & WORLD -

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.

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