UPDATE 1-Protesters set fire to parliament office in Iraq's Basra

22 Aug 2020 / 01:35 H.

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    BASRA, Iraq, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Protesters in the southern Iraqi city of Basra set fire to parliament's local office on Friday as security forces fired live rounds in the air to disperse them, a Reuters witness and security sources said.

    The protesters had gathered to demand that Iraq's parliament sack the provincial governor after two activists were killed and others wounded in three separate attacks by unknown gunmen this week. Security forces opened fire while the protesters lobbed petrol bombs.

    Activist Reham Yacoub, who had led several women's marches in the past, was killed on Wednesday and three others wounded when gunmen, brandishing assault rifles on the back of a motorcycle, opened fire on their car.

    It was the third incident this week in which gunmen targeted an anti-government political activist, after one activist was killed and four others had their car fired upon in a separate incident.

    The wave of violence began when activist Tahseen Osama was assassinated last week, prompting street demonstrations lasting three days in which security forces opened live fire on protesters who threw rocks and petrol bombs at the governor's house and blocked several main roads.

    Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi sacked the Basra police and national security chiefs on Monday and ordered an investigation into the violence. That calmed protesters until Yacoub's killing brought them back out on the streets.

    Kadhimi took office in April, becoming the third Iraqi head of government in a chaotic 10-week period that followed months of deadly protests in the country, which has been exhausted by decades of sanctions, war, corruption and economic challenges. (Reporting by Aref Mohammed; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Chris Reese and Barbara Lewis)

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