Hundreds of protesters gathered in Najaf on Thursday, February 6, one day after violent clashes left eight dead and at least 20 injured. Protesters rallied through the city's streets and called for an investigation to the violence perpetrated by supporters of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Wednesday, February 5. As protester camps in Sadrayn Square were destroyed on Wednesday, they vowed to reestablish another camp.
Clashes were reported in Karbala on Thursday, between anti-government demonstrators and Sadr supporters in Al-Ahrar Square. Like on Wednesday in Najaf, the supporters stormed the protester camp in Karbala, seeking to remove the protesters. This incident left one protester dead and eight others injured.
Associated protests are to be expected in the coming days by the anti-government movement. A heightened security presence is to be anticipated in the vicinity of any demonstration. Additional clashes between Sadrist groups and protesters are possible.
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.
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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