Arrest warrant issued for Iraqi general over protester deaths

Gen Jamil Al Shammari was overseeing crackdown in Nasiriyah where dozens were killed last week

Staff General Jamil al-Shammari (C), Basra security operations commander, gives a press conference at the oeprations command headquarters in the southern city on September 5, 2018. (Photo by Haidar MOHAMMED ALI / AFP)
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Iraq's judiciary on Sunday issued an arrest warrant against an army general over the killing of protesters in the southern city of Nasiriyah last week

The Higher Judiciary Council said magistrates in the southern Dhi Qar province had issued a warrant for Gen Jamil Al Shammari and barred him from leaving the country.

The council, which oversees Iraq's judicial system and is independent of the Justice Ministry, said Gen Al Shammari “issued the orders that caused the killing of demonstrators in the province”.

It was the first legal action against a high-ranking member of the security forces over the brutal suppression of anti-government demonstrations that has left more than 400 protesters dead and thousands wounded since October 1.

Gen Al Shammari led a crackdown in the protest centre of Nasiriyah, capital of Dhi Qar, which killed dozens of protesters and wounded more than 200 in a few hours on Thursday.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi sent the general to Nasiriyah “to impose security and restore order”, and recalled him on the same day as the death toll mounted.

The killing of mostly young demonstrators, now widely being referred to as the Nasiriyah massacre, has raised the spectre of inter-Shiite strife, with tribes in Dhi Qar vowing to take revenge.

Mr Abdul Mahdi announced his resignation the day after the killings, which took place in his hometown. Parliament approved his exit on Sunday.

The crackdown in Nasiriyah and other southern cities came after demonstrators torched the Iranian consulate in Najaf, increasing anti-Iranian sentiment and adding intensity to the uprising.

Gen Al Shammari was the military commander in charge of Basra when anti-government demonstrations broke out there in 2018.

After dozens of protesters were killed in the southern oil city, then prime minister Haider Al Abadi's office announced that he was being transferred to Baghdad as president of the Defence University for Military Studies.