WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department said on Thursday it was outraged by the assassination of civil society activists in Iraq and by attacks on protesters in Baghdad and the southern city of Basra.
A female activist was killed on Wednesday and three others wounded when unidentified gunmen opened fire on their car in Basra, security and health sources told Reuters. It was the third incident in the past week in which gunmen targeted an anti-government political activist.
"We urge the Government of Iraq to take immediate steps to hold accountable the militias, thugs, and criminal gangs attacking Iraqis exercising their right to peaceful protest," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
The recent wave of violence in Basra began when another activist was killed on Friday, prompting three days of demonstrations in which security forces opened fire on protesters who threw rocks and petrol bombs at the governor's house.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi fired the Basra police and national security chiefs on Monday and ordered an investigation into the violence.
Kadhimi held talks at the White House on Thursday with U.S. President Donald Trump, who told reporters he was looking forward to the day when U.S. troops could leave Iraq.
"We'll be leaving shortly," Trump said, without laying out a timetable.
(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Alistair Bell)