Iraq's Minister of Interior (MoI) Othman Al-Ghanimi visited Basra on Thursday, August 20, to discuss recent attacks on activists in the city. Al-Ghanimi led a delegation of high-level security representatives to develop solutions to the recent violence. As part of new security measures, Al-Ghanimi has instructed Basra security forces to seize any vehicle in the city without license plates, regardless of claims of authorisation by the driver. Furthermore, he instructed the Joint Operations Command to develop a robust plan to overcome tribal disputes and called for the formation of a committee, tasked with pursuing outstanding arrest warrants to target criminal elements operating throughout the province. The committee will reportedly be approved by the MoI by August 27.
Further attacks targeting civil society workers and activists are to be anticipated in the medium term, and heightened security is likely in Basra. Associated demonstrations are also possible in Basra and other major cities in the near term.
Unidentified gunmen attacked a vehicle carrying civil activist Reham Yacoub in Basra on Wednesday, August 19, killing her and another person and wounding two other passengers. Yacoub campaigned for women's rights and political reform in Iraq and had been accused of working on behalf of the US and influencing the protest movement prior to her assassination.
The assassination of Yacoub was the second fatal attack on a civil activist within seven days in Basra. On August 14, unidentified gunmen killed Tahseen Oussama in an alleged targeted attack. Four other civil society activists are also reported to have been wounded. The previous fatal incident prompted Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to remove the Basra Police Chief and the Head of Basra National Security Service branch. Al-Ghanimi's proposed changes are intended to not only prevent violence against protesters but are likely intended to identify and manage members of security forces or illegitimate individuals claiming to be members of security forces.
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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