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Iraq suspends three soldiers in protest deaths

The Iraqi government suspended three soldiers, including two senior officers, in connection with the deaths of two protesters during a demonstration in Baghdad on Sunday, Interior Minister Othman al-Ghanimi announced Thursday.

Angry about electricity cuts as temperatures crested 50 degrees, scores of protesters marched from Tahrir Square to Tayaran Square in central Baghdad late Sunday. In clashes between demonstrators and security forces, two protesters were killed and others were injured, reported Reuters. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered an investigation into the deaths, demanding answers within 72 hours.

Announcing the results of the investigation, Ghanimi said two senior army officers and a low-ranking soldier used their rifles against the protesters against orders. “They have been suspended and the investigation is ongoing,” the minister stated.

Iraq has seen frequent protests since October 2019, with people demanding basic services, jobs, and the fall of the corruption-rife political establishment that has been in place since the 2003 US invasion.

Nearly 560 protesters and security force members have been killed since October 2019, according to data provided by Hisham Dawoud, advisor to the prime minister. While leaders from across the political spectrum condemn the deaths, protesters complain that the killers are not being brought to justice.

The government will consider the protesters “martyrs,” making the families eligible for compensation, Dawoud said in a press conference in Baghdad on Thursday afternoon.

“The government has directed the martyrs’ office to apply its law on martyrs to the demonstrations,” he said, adding that the protesters have faced “unjustified violence” from the security forces.

He also said the government will provide “complete support” to the families of the victims. Each family will be offered 10 million dinars ($8,400). This matter is a priority for the cabinet, Kadhimi said this week.

The Interior Ministry has called on protesters to cooperate with authorities and warned that groups are trying to create “chaos” on the streets.

“Our security units monitored the situation, and in light of the preliminary investigation results of the events of Sunday night, we observed that dangerous criminal groups in Tahrir Square are seeking to create chaos by beating protesters within the crowd and fabricating clashes,” read a statement from the ministry.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) condemned the new violence, saying “Iraqis are in a difficult place facing many challenges. Their right to peaceful protest must be protected unconditionally.” Source