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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 July 2018

Inquiry launched after police shoot protesters in Basra

One person killed and 8 wounded after police opened fire on demonstrators 

A banner calling voters to boycott the parliamentary elections in Iraq hangs in the southern city of Basra on May 8, 2018 as residents feel they are neglected by the federal government. AFP
A banner calling voters to boycott the parliamentary elections in Iraq hangs in the southern city of Basra on May 8, 2018 as residents feel they are neglected by the federal government. AFP

The Iraqi interior ministry has opened an investigation after police fired on a protest killing one and wounding eight others as people demonstrated against a lack of government services near the southern city of Basra.

Local authorities did not name or provide details on the person killed but said that eight others were wounded when police shot into a small crowd of between 20 and 40 people gathered to protest poor service provision in the oil-rich area.

"Protesters were only making fair demands for jobs and better basic services but police opened fire and injuring eight and killing one individual,” said Yaseen Al Battat, a local mayor from the Imam Sadiq area where the demonstration took place.

Basra is a hub for oil exports that account for over 95 per cent of Baghdad's central government's revenue. However, poverty rates and unemployment is high.

The protesters, from farmland areas around 100 kilometre north of Basra, gathered on a highway located near the southern oilfields perimeters of West Qurna-2, which is being developed by Russia’s Lukoil, and West Qurna 1oilfield, operated by Exxon Mobil, police said.

Local tribes and communities near the major oil fields regularly protest to call on the international companies and government to provide more employment opportunities and public services.

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Meanwhile, the countries electoral commission announced it will resume the manual recount of ballots in several areas, including Basra, on Monday in an attempt to end the country's political stalemate after accusations of irregularities in May’s parliamentary vote.

"The recount is scheduled to resume on Monday morning for ballot boxes at polling stations, where vote-rigging and fraud were reported in the provinces of Basra, Maysan, Dhi Qar, Muthanna, Al Qadisiyah and Wasit," Laith Hamza, spokesman for Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission said.

May's elections, the fourth since the fall of former dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, had the lowest voter turnout at only 44 per cent, fuelled by public anger at the country's dysfunctional political system.

The recount began last Tuesday in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk where a large number of complaints were recorded.

Representatives from the United Nations and international observers will inspect the manual recount.

Votes cast overseas in Iran, Turkey, Britain, Lebanon, Jordan, the United States and Germany will also be recounted.

Electronic voting machines were used in May's elections for the first time in an attempt to eliminate electoral fraud. However, there were complaints that these were used to rig the outcome in some areas.

In an amendment to the elections law passed last month, parliament demanded a nationwide recount of votes but did not follow demands by some parties to cancel the votes from areas with the largest number of alleged irregularities and rerun the election in these places.

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