Iraqi protesters clash with security forces over neglect

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Protesters tried to storm a government building in latest display of anger at government neglect in southern Iraq

Iraqis protesting government neglect and corruption clashed with security forces in Basra (Reuters)
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Friday 31 August 2018 17:54 UTC
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Iraqis protesting about government neglect and corruption in the southern oil hub city of Basra have clashed with security forces on Friday night. 

No serious injuries have been reported after riot police responded with tear gas to angered protesters who stoned and tried to storm the provincial government headquarters and set fire to tyres. 

By the evening protesters had destroyed part of the concrete wall surrounding the headquarters and were hurling petrol bombs through the gap towards the building, while chanting anti-government slogans.

Protests have swept cities in the long-neglected south, Iraq's Shia heartland, over widespread electricity outages during the blistering hot Iraqi summer, a lack of jobs and proper government services, and entrenched corruption.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi suspended the electricity minister last month and said earlier this week that his government had begun punishing those responsible for poor services in Basra, Iraq's second biggest city.

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What's behind Iraq's Basra protests

Public anger is rising at a time when politicians are struggling to form a new government after an inconclusive parliamentary election in May. Iraq's top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has expressed support for the protests.

Friday's protests were particularly concerned with the high level of salt in Basra's drinking water that residents say makes it undrinkable.

The city's infrastructure is crumbling from years of neglect and under-investment, generating widespread bitterness as locals contrast their impoverishment with the oil wealth the province provides for federal government coffers. 

At least five protesters were killed during similar protests in Basra in July, after local police used live fire.