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Antigovernment protests rock Basra, Iraq

TOPSHOT – Iraqi protesters gather at the burnt-down local government headquarters in the southern city of Basra on September 7, 2018 during demonstrations over poor public services. – Basra has seen a surge in protests since September 4, with demonstrators torching government buildings as well as political party and militia offices, as anger boils over after the hospitalisation of 30,000 people who had drunk polluted water. (Photo by Haidar MOHAMMED ALI / AFP) (Photo credit should read HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI/AFP/Getty Images)

Anti-government protests rock Basra, Iraq

Iraqi security forces deployed on the streets of Basra on Saturday, a day after protesters in the southern city stormed the Iranian consulate and torched government buildings in violence that rocked the oil-exporting Shiite heartland and sparked alarm across a conflict-weary country.

The deployment came after an alliance of powerful Shiite militias, many of them backed by Iran, vowed to respond to the violent protests that have gripped the city for the past week, raising the threat of further violence.

At least 15 people were killed and 249 injured in clashes between protesters and security forces this week, health officials say.

Since June, Basra has been shaken by the most serious protests in the oil-rich southern region in years, with angry residents complaining of poor public services. In recent days, protests escalated, as crowds turned their rage on neighboring Iran, blaming its outsized influence in Iraq’s political affairs for their misery and calling for radical change. Iran controls powerful Shiite militias in Basra, home to some of the largest oil fields in Iraq. (AP)

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