At least 40 people were injured in Baghdad and surrounding southern cities in clashes between security forces and protesters on Saturday, January 25. According to media sources, two protest sites were raided in Baghdad, where anti-government protesters had been camping out in recent months. These sites include Tahrir Square, Baghdad's main protest site, and one of the main bridges over the Tigris River, while raids also took place in the southern city of Basra where 16 protesters were arrested. Six people were also injured in Nasiriya.
A heightened security presence should be anticipated and localized transportation and business disruptions are to be expected around all protest sites. Further demonstrations and subsequent clashes between protesters and security forces are expected over the near term.
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 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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