At least two people have lost their lives and more than a dozen others sustained injuries in protests over dire economic conditions in southern Iraq as hundreds of other protesters stormed the airport of the holy city of Najaf and disrupted air traffic temporarily, Press TV reported.
Authorities in the province of Maysan said on Friday that one protester was killed and 15 others were injured in the provincial capital of Amarah, adding that the angry demonstrators were reportedly attempting to storm the governor’s office.
Elsewhere in the province of Dhi Qar, at least 25 security forces were wounded as they tried to break up crowds of protesters in Nasiriyah, the provincial capital.
Earlier on Friday, security forces killed another demonstrator in the city of Basrah as Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi was on an official visit there. Basrah residents, decrying poor government services and corruption, warned of more rallies if their demands were not met.
They held protest rallies in the oil-rich port city for a fifth straight day and blocked access to the nearby commodities port of Umm Qasr.
Basrah is an important hub for oil exports which account for over 95 percent of Iraq's government revenues.
A similar rally was also staged in the holy city of Najaf on Friday as public anger mounted over unemployment and delivery of basic services. Local sources said hundreds of demonstrators entered the main hall of the city’s airport and walked on to the tarmac, temporarily disrupting the air traffic.
A few hours later, air traffic resumed at the airport after protesters withdrew, state television reported.
Another protest rally was also held in capital Baghdad on Friday against poor services, unemployment and corruption.
Meanwhile, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq’s top Shia cleric, issued a statement, expressing his solidarity with the protesters. He added that he was concerned about people’s difficult living conditions.
The protests over basic services come at a sensitive time when Iraqi political factions are trying to form a coalition government after the May 12 parliamentary elections.