Iraq Cleric Calls for Urgent Meeting Over Basra Violence

More violence in the southern Iraqi port city of Basra has government officials in Baghdad on edge, while security officials also are on alert.

Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on parliament to meet by Sunday to discuss the crisis.

Sadr is demanding that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and top government officials develop a plan for Basra. In addition, Sadr is threatening to sweep away corrupt and sectarian politicians whom he claims don’t care about the blood, the dignity or the livelihoods of their people.

Abadi has indicated he is willing to attend a session of parliament to discuss the situation.

Following overnight violence, Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan announced a curfew for Basra starting at 3 p.m. Thursday, citing intelligence information that an attack on government buildings was planned.

However, local security officials canceled the curfew.

The head of Basra security, General Jamil al Shammari, insists his men are not trying to attack protesters, but to protect strategic government installations.

Shammari says the protests have been infiltrated by groups looking to cause violence. He says his men were stunned by protesters throwing grenades, setting fire to army vehicles and government buildings, and trying to assassinate people.

A shopkeeper, whose business is located near the provincial headquarters building torched by protesters, told Al Hurra TV that a mob tried to shoot him through his store window.

Credit: Voice of America (VOA) | Photo Credit: Reuters