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Protests continue in Iraq despite PM’s pledge to quit

Iraq Sunni Protests (Voice of America News/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Anti-government protests have continued in Iraq, a day after Prime Minister Adil Abdel-Mahdi announced his intention to resign under the pressure of nearly two months of unrest and a call from the country’s top cleric for parliament to end its support of the government.

“We’ll keep up this movement. Abdel-Mahdi’s resignation is only the first step, and now all corrupt figures must be removed and judged,” said one protester in the southern city of Diwaniyah, where thousands took to streets early on November 30.

In the capital, Baghdad, protesters threw rocks at security forces positioned behind concrete barriers to protect government buildings.

“We won’t leave our barricades until the regime falls, until we get jobs, water, electricity,” one protester said.

At least 16 people were injured on November 30 after security forces fired at protesters who were trying to storm a police center in the city of Nasiriya, medics and witnesses said.

Iraqis have been taking to the streets of Baghdad and the country’s Shi’ite-majority south since early October to demand more jobs, an end to endemic corruption, and improved public services. More than 400 people have been killed since the unrest began.

Mahdi, 77, took office just over a year ago. His statement did not say when his resignation would occur.

The statement came shortly after Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani condemned the use of force against protesters and called for lawmakers to drop their support for the current cabinet. Iraq’s top cleric also urged demonstrators to reject acts of violence and vandalism.