Iraq slips into fresh turmoil as many are killed as nation protests in 'Day of rage' public anger

0
351
Iraq

Al Jazeera has obtained pictures which appear to show police shooting at protesters in the Iraqi city of Falluja, during Friday’s deadly nationwide “day of rage”.

 

An unprecedented lockdown of Iraq’s capital failed to deter thousands of Iraqis from protesting, serving notice that the anti-government rage sweeping the Middle East will not be easily extinguished in Baghdad.

The “day of rage” protests rocked other Iraqi cities as well, as demonstrators burned or tried to storm government buildings from the southern port of Basra to the northern cities of Mosul and Falluja, where at least 12 protesters were shot dead by security forces.

Thousands rallied in cities across the country on Friday during what has been billed as the ‘day of rage’ [AFP]
Around 5,000 people thronged Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, with angry crowds throwing stones, shoes and plastic bottles at riot police and soldiers blocking off a bridge connecting the site to Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, home to the US embassy and parliament.

The protest was the biggest of at least 17 separate demonstrations across the country, some sparking clashes in which more than 130 people were wounded, according to a tally based on accounts by officials.

Four government buildings were also set ablaze and one provincial governor resigned.

By evening, most of the crowd in Baghdad had left and security forces refused to allow anyone to enter the area surrounding the square.

However,  an oil refinery in the Iraqi town of Baiji has been shut down following a fire started by a bomb attack, according to the governor of Salahuddin province. The attack followed the ongoing protest.

One person was reportedly killed in the attack, which occurred at around 4:30am local time (01:30GMT) on Saturday.

Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, quoted Abdul Qader al-Saab, deputy director of the state-owned North Oil Company, as saying that unknown gunmen equipped with silencers infiltrated the biggest refinery in the Baiji refining complex, laid IEDs [Improvised explosive devices] in several operational units and fled before detonating them.

“[Saab] also said that the entire refinery has now closed and that a chemical engineer died from smoke inhalation and several others were injured,” she said.

The Baiji refinery was controlled for a long time by al-Qaeda fighters, who used it to finance attacks.It is located about 180km north of Baghdad.

Iraq currently has three major refineries – Baiji in the north, Basra in the south, and Dora in south Baghdad.

They have a combined capacity to handle 550,000 barrels per day of crude, producing refined products including 12 million litres of petrol, 15 million litres of diesel, nine million litres of heating oil and large volumes of fuel oil for power stations.

Baiji on its own has overall capacity of 290,000 barrels but was operating at 70 per cent capacity before the attack.

Overall violence in Iraq has dropped sharply since the peak of sectarian conflict in 2006-07, but attacks still occur on a
daily basis.

The refinery is situated in the town of Baiji, about 180km north of Baghdad.