Protesters in Baghdad gathered on Sunday, January 12, to oppose the reassignment of former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to form a new government. The concern is raised due to the growing role he has played in advocating for a foreign troop withdrawal in Iraq. Protests were mainly concentrated to Tahrir Square in Baghdad, but also took place at universities and outside government buildings across the country. Violent clashes were also reported. An estimated 60 people, including 48 security force members, were injured in clashes outside the University of Wasit in Al Kut, Wasit Governorate. Four people were reportedly stabbed by unidentified militia near Nasiriyah's al-Habibi Square. In Karbala, a building was set on fire as security forces clashed with demonstrators who tried to storm a local government building.
The protests took place amid a rocket attack on Balad Air Base in the Salah-al-Din province at 19:14 (local time), which houses US troops. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Anti-government protests are likely to continue on Monday, January 13, as well as in the coming several days. A heightened security presence is to be expected in the vicinity of any demonstrations.
Demonstrations broke out in Iraq on October 1 to protest perceived government corruption, inadequate provision of public services, and a lack of job opportunities. Following weeks of relative calm, demonstrations violently resumed on October 24-25, coinciding with the deadline issued by Grand Ayatollah Sistani to the government to produce a report on who in the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) was responsible for firing at civilians during previous demonstrations. An estimated 460 people have been killed and unconfirmed estimates state that over 25,000 people have been wounded since 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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