Updated at 8:23 p.m. EST, February 16, 2011
The mass protests against poor services and corruption continued today, including one that left a significant number of casualties in southern Iraq. At least six Iraqis were killed across the country in new violence or demonstrations while 59 more were wounded. In Europe, British and Swiss researchers studying Iraq’s war dead have discovered a disturbingly high proportion of civilians deaths from Coalition operations.
Iraqi politicians are responding to growing public disapproval by slashing their salaries through legislation. Earlier this month Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pledged to reduce his own and not seek a third term as premier, but those promises have not stopped the dissent so far. While they are tangentially part of a larger movement that follows regime-shattering protests in Tunisia and Egypt, demonstrations against poor services began last summer. Protests took place in Kut and Basra, but also in Diwaniya, Falluja, and Nasariya. Iraqi refugees living in Syria voiced support for the demonstrations.
Thousands of protestors briefly held government buildings in Kut and set fire to them before police were able to disperse the crowd. At least three demonstrators were killed, perhaps when security guards shot directly at them, and as many as 55 others were wounded in the ensuing melee. One of the fatalities was a 16-year-old boy.
One protestor said that while the demonstration was peaceful at first, a politician was disrespectful to them, telling them this was a waste of their time. And, when the demonstrators noticed new armored vehicles in the parking lot, they became incensed. The angry crowd demanded the resignation of the governor, although he has already been fired from his post by the Wassit provincial council last September. They also accused him of stealing public money and gave other grievances. The governor escaped through a back door, but some authorities insist he was in Baghdad at the time. The demonstrators also condemned Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Iraqi government. This is the second demonstration in Kut this month and the most violent since last summer. The city is under a curfew.
In Mosul, gunmen killed a government official in front of her home.
A bomb targeting the Tuz Khormato police chief’s convoy wounded two people, including a bystander.
A blast in Mussayab wounded two policemen.
A customs employee’s son was kidnapped from a home in Habaniya.
No casualties were reported after a roadside bomb blasted a U.S. patrol.