Iraq prime minister asks MPs to fire governor over deadly ferry capsize

Widespread anger in Mosul following years of war and neglect

Iraq's prime minister on Saturday made a formal request to parliament to fire the governor of Niniveh, where more than 100 people died after a ferry capsized.

The announcement coincides with the arrest of 16 people in connection with the deadly incident, local media reported.

Most of those killed in Thursday's sinking on the Tigris River were women and children making their way out of Mosul to celebrate Mother's Day. The Tigris, fed by melted snow from Turkish mountains, runs high at this time of the year. CCTV footage showed the boat capsize violently into the river, as people struggled to swim against the strong current.

"Due to the obvious negligence and dereliction in performing duties and responsibility, and the presence of evidence proving misuse of public funds and abuse of power ... we suggest that you dismiss the governor and his deputies," Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi wrote in a letter addressed to the speaker of parliament that was published by his office late on Friday.

Iraqi law gives the federal parliament the right to sack provincial governors based on the suggestion of the prime minister. On Thursday he ordered an investigation into the sinking.

Mosul's board of tourism on Saturday denied responsibility for the deaths of the passengers and called on local authorities to shut down tourism businesses operating without licences.

Governor Nawfal Hammadi Al Sultan has already been subjected to the anger of victims' relatives and their supporters over alleged corruption and cronyism.

Protesters demonstrating against widespread corruption and neglect hurled stones at the governor and President Barham Salih's convoy on Friday when they visited the scene of the tragedy.

Mosul security officials blamed the accident on high water levels and overcrowding on the boat.

Hundreds of relatives of victims and residents gathered on Friday at the scene of the accident, where prayers were held for the dead.

Many said the disaster could have been avoided, and chanted "corruption is killing us".

"We want those responsible to be brought to justice," Mohammed Adel, 27, whose father was among those who died, told AFP.

There is widespread anger in Mosul at the slow pace of reconstruction since the city's recapture from ISIS in 2017 by Iraqi troops backed by a US-led coalition.

The city still bears the scars of three years of iron-fisted rule by the extremists. Survivors of Thursday's disaster were treated in hospitals heavily damaged by the months-long military campaign against ISIS.