Iraq unrest: Protesters attack Iranian consulate in Karbala

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Media caption,

Protesters threw burning objects over the walls around the Iranian consulate

At least three people were shot dead when protesters attacked the Iranian consulate in the Iraqi holy city of Karbala on Sunday night.

The protesters, who demanded that Iran stop interfering in Iraq's internal affairs, climbed the consulate's walls.

Reports say the security forces opened fire, but another account says unknown gunmen were responsible.

There are also reports that security forces fired live rounds at protesters gathered in Baghdad on Monday.

Mass demonstrations against Iraq's government have continued despite a plea from the prime minister.

Adel Abdul Mahdi called on the protesters - who are angry at his failure to deal with widespread corruption, high unemployment and poor public services - to re-open roads and "help restore normality to the country" in remarks broadcast Sunday.

He said the government respected peaceful protests, but that the blocking of roads around the capital and key ports in the south, combined with the "threatening of oil interests", had cost the country billions and contributed to price rises.

President Barham Saleh said last week Mr Abdul Mahdi was willing to resign once a replacement was found, and that a new election law was being drafted.

But the protesters want to sweep away the entire political establishment.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Several protesters scaled the consulate's walls and waved Iraqi flags

Iran, which backs the Iraqi government and a number of powerful local Shia Muslim militias, has urged protesters to seek changes within the "framework of legal structures", warning them that "the enemy wants to break" the structures.

"The US and Western intelligence services, with the financial backing of reactionary countries in the region, are spreading turmoil," Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last week.

What happened on Sunday?

Dozens of people shouting "Karbala is free, Iran out, out!" took part in the protest outside the Iranian consulate.


Some protesters threw stones and burning objects over the high concrete walls surrounding the building. Three men scaled the walls and waved Iraqi flags.

Security forces fired live ammunition to disperse the protesters and several were shot, according to AFP news agency correspondents at the scene. The agency cites a medical official as saying that three protesters succumbed to their wounds.

The Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR), an official watchdog, said three protesters had been killed in a clash outside the consulate.

Media caption,

How tuk-tuks are saving lives in the Iraq protests

But a source in Karbala told the BBC that one of the dead was a guard at a nearby Shia shrine who happened to be passing by. The source also said the origin of the gunfire was unknown and it had targeted both the protesters and security forces.

The IHCHR also reported that Saba al-Mahdawi, an activist and doctor who had been providing first aid at the protests in Baghdad, was abducted by unknown men on Saturday night. It called on the authorities to investigate her disappearance.

Iran's consul general in Karbala, Mir-Masoud Hosseinian, told Iranian media on Monday morning the situation was under control and that conditions had "returned to normal".

What happened on Monday?

Both AFP and Reuters news agency report that live rounds were used by security forces in Baghdad on Monday.

Reuters witnesses say at least five people were killed.

More than 250 people have been killed and 9,000 injured in clashes with security forces in two waves of protests since 1 October.