Iraqi prime min­is­ter re­signs af­ter many deadly protests

Lodi News-Sentinel - - WORLD - By Kad­hem Al-At­tabi and Saad Al-Sa­mak

BAGHDAD — Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Adel Ab­del-Mahdi, fac­ing week­s­long street protests, said on Fri­day he would re­sign, a day af­ter dozens of anti-gov­ern­ment demon­stra­tors were killed.

“I will sub­mit to the House of Deputies the of­fi­cial let­ter of res­ig­na­tion from head­ing the present gov­ern­ment so that the as­sem­bly can re­con­sider its choices,” Ab­del-Mahdi added in a writ­ten state­ment.

The March­ing For­ward Bloc, which has the largest num­ber of seats at par­lia­ment, called on the leg­is­la­ture to meet on Satur­day to vote on Ab­delMahdi’s res­ig­na­tion.

Ab­del-Mahdi said his res­ig­na­tion comes in re­sponse to a call made ear­lier Fri­day by the coun­try’s top Shi­ite cleric Ali al-Sis­tani for par­lia­ment to “re­con­sider” its back­ing of the gov­ern­ment.

Fol­low­ing his an­nounce­ment of in­tend­ing to step down, anti-gov­ern­ment pro­test­ers, pack­ing Baghdad’s iconic Tahrir Square, erupted in joy.

“Ab­del-Mahdi’s res­ig­na­tion is just the be­gin­ning. All should go. They must be com­pletely up­rooted,” a pro­tester in the plaza said, re­fer­ring to Iraq’s rul­ing elite.

Other pro­test­ers mean­while chanted in uni­son: “We sac­ri­fice soul and blood for Iraq.”

Ab­del-Mahdi, 77, be­came prime min­is­ter in Oc­to­ber last year.

Street protests have roiled Iraq since early Oc­to­ber, with demon­stra­tors call­ing for the res­ig­na­tion of the gov­ern­ment, the dis­so­lu­tion of par­lia­ment and an over­haul of the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, which has been in place since the 2003 U.S.-led in­va­sion of Iraq.

At least 380 peo­ple, mostly pro­test­ers, have since been killed and 17,700 oth­ers in­jured in the demon­stra­tions, the semi-of­fi­cial Iraqi High Com­mis­sion for Hu­man Rights said on Fri­day.

Sev­eral rights groups have ac­cused the Iraqi se­cu­rity forces of us­ing ex­ces­sive vi­o­lence to quell the protests.

On Thurs­day, at least 32 peo­ple were killed in clashes with se­cu­rity forces in Iraq’s south­ern city of Nasiriya, trig­ger­ing an out­cry in the coun­try.

Three more pro­test­ers were killed on Fri­day in re­newed vi­o­lence in Nasiriya, wit­nesses said.

Iraqi ju­di­cial au­thor­i­ties said they had set up a com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate the deadly vi­o­lence in Nasiriya.

The Supreme Ju­di­cial Coun­cil, Iraq’s high­est ju­di­cial au­thor­ity, has formed a three-judge panel to con­duct an “ur­gent in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pro­tester killings,” the coun­cil’s spokesman Ab­del-Sat­tar Bairaq­dar said, ac­cord­ing to Iraq’s of­fi­cial news agency INA.

The demon­stra­tions are the largest in Iraq since De­cem­ber 2017, when Baghdad de­clared the lib­er­a­tion of all ter­ri­tory pre­vi­ously un­der the con­trol of Is­lamic State ex­trem­ists.

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