Iraqi security forces injured in grenade attack amid premier talks

Iran consulate in Iraq burns for third time since unrest began

FILE PHOTO: A view of the Iranian consulate after Iraqi demonstrators stormed and set fire to the building during ongoing anti-government protests in Najaf, Iraq November 28, 2019. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani/File Photo
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Members of Iraq's security forces were injured on Wednesday in a grenade attack in Baghdad, as political jockeying over the selection of a new prime minister continued.

Baghdad's Operations Command said four of the nine injured troops were in a critical condition after an "unidentified man threw a hand grenade at security forces at a checkpoint near the central bank".

Protests have gripped the capital since early October and Iraq's Central Bank on Rasheed Street has been at the heart of demonstrations.

At least 400 people have been killed and thousands wounded in the capital since the unrest began.

On Tuesday, protesters burnt an Iranian consulate in southern Iraq for a third time.

Five rockets landed inside Ain Al Asad airbase, a sprawling complex in western Anbar that hosts US forces, causing no casualties and little damage, Iraqi security said.

President Barham Salih met Iraq's main political blocs as a 15-day constitutional deadline to name the next prime minister nears, two Iraqi officials said.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announced his resignation on Friday.

The Sairoun bloc, led by influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, wrote to Mr Salih saying it supported protesters' right to support a premier of their choice.

Anti-government protesters in Najaf burned tyres and hurled them towards the main gate of the Iranian consulate.

The building was empty at the time of the attack and there were no casualties, police said.

The incident came after hours of tense standoff with security forces earlier on Tuesday when protesters surrounded a key shrine in Najaf.

Tens of demonstrators gathered around the Hakim shrine, demanding that Mr Al Sadr help them enter and symbolically take control.

Al Sadr commands Saraya Salam, a powerful militia group. A few protesters and some elderly tribal sheikhs were eventually permitted to enter the shrine and inspect it.

Demonstrators demanding reform have flooded the capital and the Shiite-majority south since October, in the largest grassroots movement the country has witnessed in years.

Seen as a threat to the ruling elite, rallies were met with violence from security forces and armed groups, leaving nearly 430 people dead and 20,000 wounded - the vast majority demonstrators.

The United Nations envoy to Iraq called on decision-makers to act fast in response to demands for change.

"Political leaders do not have the luxury of time and must rise to the moment," Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said on Tuesday.

Demonstrators have protested rampant corruption, lack of jobs and poor public services.

Despite the oil wealth of Opec's second-biggest producer, one in five Iraqis lives in poverty and youth unemployment stands at one quarter, the World Bank says.