An argument between shop owners and anti-government protesters in Baghdad's Khulani Square escalated into stone-throwing and shooting on Tuesday, April 21, leaving at least one person dead and four others wounded. Approximately 50-60 individuals reportedly threw stones and petrol bombs at security forces, causing damage to several stationary vehicles in the area.
A heightened security presence is to be expected in the area over the coming hours. Further clashes cannot be ruled out.
On Sunday, March 1, former Prime Minister-Designate Mohammed Allawi announced he would step down from his post following a lack of support for his cabinet selection among members of parliament (MPs). Allawi faced a Monday, March 2, deadline to appoint cabinet members. The vote was initially scheduled for Friday, February 28, but this was postponed twice, attributed to a lack of quorum. Sunni and Kurdish members of parliament reportedly refused to attend due to political disputes among the representatives, contributing to a failure to achieve quorum. Iraq's President, Barham Salih, appointed Mustafa Al-Kazemi as the prime minister-designate on April 9, after Adnan Al-Zurfi failed to form a cabinet.
Protests were reported in Baghdad on March 1 and March 2, with participants moving from the established sit-in site at Tahrir Square to the prime minister's office, as they expected a vote and announcement on the cabinet selection. On March 1, one person was killed and 83 others were wounded in clashes between riot police and protesters at Khulani Square in Rusafa district. Protests were also reported in Basra, Wasit, and Dhi Qar provinces on March 2.
Additional related protests and clashes are likely as Iraq faces more political instability in the coming weeks. A heightened security presence and disruptions to transportation and business are to be expected around demonstration sites.
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 670 people have been killed and over 24,400 people have been wounded since the protests began.
Individuals in Baghdad are advised to monitor the situation, avoid all protests as a precaution, anticipate a heightened security presence, budget ample travel time, and obey instructions issued by 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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