Protesters in Iraq‘s oil-rich province of Basra have targeted several government buildings, including state-TV office, setting the headquarters of the local government and offices of several political parties on fire.
At least two protesters died during the violence, according to Iraq’s Human Rights Commission, taking the death toll to 11 since the weeks-long protests escalated on September 3.
One protester died on Thursday night from burns sustained during the torching of the government headquarters, health and security sources said.
People attacked the offices of the state-run Iraqiya TV and set fire to the headquarters of the ruling Dawa Party, the Supreme Islamic Council and the Badr Organisation, whose leaders are all vying to form Iraq’s ruling coalition.
Shia militia offices targeted
WATCH: Iraqi protests against unsafe water in Basra
Protesters also torched the offices of a powerful Shia armed group, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and those of the Hikma Movement, and stormed the house of the acting head of the provincial council.
Security forces, including members of the rapid response team, were expected to be patrolling in high numbers on Thursday. By nightfall, however, they were few and far between in the city centre and did not interfere heavily in protesters’ activities.
Southern Iraq, heartland of the Shia majority, has erupted in unrest in recent weeks as protesters express their rage over collapsing infrastructure, power cuts and corruption.
Public anger has grown at a time when politicians are struggling to form a new government after an inconclusive parliamentary election in May. Residents of the south complain of decades of neglect in the region that produces the bulk of Iraq’s oil wealth.
Residents in Basra, a city of more than two million people, say the water supply has become contaminated with salt, making them vulnerable and desperate in the hot summer months.
Attack on Baghdad’s Green Zone
WATCH: Iraqi forces open fire on third day of Basra clashes
Three mortar shells landed inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone just after midnight local time on Friday, the Iraqi military said in a statement.
The mortars landed on an “abandoned lot,” resulting in “no casualties or physical damage,” the statement said.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes after days of intensifying protests in the southern city.
The mortar attack is the first such attack in several years on the Green Zone, which houses parliament, government buildings and many foreign embassies.