Iraq says it is close to finding evidence against killers of Basra activists

Perpetrators 'will be found' and referred to the judiciary, says military

What is behind the rise in killings of Iraqi activists?

What is behind the rise in killings of Iraqi activists?
Powered by automated translation

Iraq said on Tuesday that it is close to finding evidence that will hold the murderers of anti-government protesters in Basra to account.

Frustration against the government flared up in the southern oil city last week after gunmen shot dead protest leader Reham Yacoub in her car. It was the third such attack against campaigners in Basra in a week.

“We are close to obtaining vital evidence related to the perpetrators who carried out the recent assassinations in Basra,” military spokesman Yahya Rasool said.

“There is an intelligence follow-up and the perpetrators will be found and referred to the judiciary to hold them to account,” he said.

“We are capable of carrying out an accurate intelligence operation,” he confirmed.

Protesters set fire to parliament office in Iraq's Basra

Protesters set fire to parliament office in Iraq's Basra

Following the killings, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi sacked the Basra police and national security chiefs and launched an investigation into the violence.

Mr Rasool said that a decision would be made soon regarding security changes in the city.

Basra, which produces a massive share of Iraq's oil, has been rocked by large-scale anti-government protests over corruption since October.

On Sunday the Interior Ministry said it had launched a military operation to track militias blamed for the assassinations.

Activists around the city said they will not stop until their demands are met. They are protesting against poor public services, unemployment and corruption.

"If they [militias] think that the assassination of activists will send us home, they are wrong. Thousands of Iraqis here in the square and the new generation are ready to lose their lives for their rights," Bassam Raad, 24 year-old activist, told The National.

The state must bring security reforms to Basra and justice must be served, Mohammed Salah, a 25-year-old activist said.

"The militias are working to enforce injustice, chaos, and killing Basra protesters, we must fight to kick them out of the city," Mr Salah told The National.

“The killers have official IDs meaning they can easily cross checkpoints and are authorized to carry weapons. The governor is responsible for what has happened in the city so he needs to change the system,” he said.

Mr Salah urged the authorities to reveal the identity of the killers and to work seriously in completing a new electoral law under an independent Electoral Commission and UN supervision.

Protesters are in fear after the recent events, he said.

Last Friday demonstrators burnt the outer gate of the building housing the Iraqi Parliament's local offices for Basra province, the area that produces the largest share of Iraq’s oil.

Demonstrators in Basra have blamed Iran-backed Iraqi militias for the attacks.

The killing of the Basra activists came after Husham Al Hashemi, a security analyst and government adviser, was murdered outside his Baghdad home in July by men on a motorbike.

Mr Al Kadhimi talked tough after Al Hashemi’s killing, pledging to hunt down his assailants and keep armed groups in check.

There have been few developments since then.