Clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces continued in Baghdad on Monday, January 27, after unidentified gunmen killed two people and 75 others were wounded in anti-government demonstrations and clashes with security forces in Nasiriyah (Dhi Qar province) overnight (local time) from Sunday, January 26, into Monday. Security forces in Baghdad attempted to dislodge anti-government protesters from their encampments for a third consecutive day on Monday, following Shi'a cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's decision to withdraw his and his supporters' involvement in the demonstrations on Friday, January 24. In the Khilani area of the capital, near Tahrir Square, security forces fired tear gas and slingshots at the protesters and live bullets into the air to drive the demonstrators back, while the demonstrators hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at the security forces.
Protests are likely to continue amid a heightened security presence and disruptions to transportation and business are to be expected in protest-affected areas over the coming days. Further demonstrations and clashes between protesters and security forces are expected over the coming days.
Tensions have increased in Iraq since the US killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in an airstrike near Baghdad International Airport (BGW) on January 3. Notably, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), was also killed in the strike.
Demonstrations broke out in Iraq on October 1, 2019, to protest alleged government corruption, inadequate provision of public services, and a lack of job opportunities. Following weeks of relatively calm demonstrations, violence resumed on October 24-25, coinciding with the deadline issued by Grand Ayatollah Sistani to the government issuing them to produce a report on the members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) that were responsible for firing at civilians during previous demonstrations. An estimated 669 people have been killed and some 24,488 people have been wounded since the protests began. December 22 was the deadline set by President Barham Salih for Parliament to decide on a prime minister to replace PM Adel Abdul Mahdi.
Individuals in Iraq are advised to closely monitor the situation, avoid all protests and large public gatherings due to potential violence, prepare for disruptions to transportation and business in areas affected by anti-government demonstrations, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments.
The security environment in Iraq remains complex. Although travel is possible in some areas with proper security protocols in place, other areas should be considered strictly off-limits. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to all travel.
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