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Iraqi protests spread to Basra

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Iraqi riot police prevent anti-government protesters from entering the Basra provincial headquarters (AP)

Iraqi riot police prevent anti-government protesters from entering the Basra provincial headquarters (AP)

Iraqi riot police prevent anti-government protesters from entering the Basra provincial headquarters (AP)

Kurdish security guards have opened fire on a crowd of protesters calling for political reforms in northern Iraq, killing at least two people.

The protest in Sulaimaniyah was the most violent in a wave of demonstrations that extended to the southern cities of Kut, Nasir and Basra.

Iraq has seen small-scale demonstrations almost daily in recent weeks, mainly centred in the impoverished southern provinces and staged by Iraqis angry over a lack of basic services like electricity and clean drinking water.

The hundreds of Kurds demonstrating in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles north-east of Baghdad, on Thursday, demanded political reforms from the regional government.

Although Kurds generally enjoy a higher standard of living than the rest of Iraq, many have grown tired of the tight grip with which the ruling parties control the region and the economy.

The protesters moved from the centre of the city to the headquarters of Kurdish President Massoud Barzani's political party, where some protesters threw stones at the building. Kurdish security guards on the roof then opened fire on the demonstrators, sending people fleeing for cover.

A local police and hospital official both said two people were killed in the incident, and the medical official said 47 people were injured.

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In the southern city of Basra, about 600 people gathered in front of the provincial headquarters, facing off against police protecting the building. With the exception of some pushing and shoving, witnesses said the protest was largely peaceful.

Dozens of angry protesters also stormed the municipal building and set it on fire in the small town of Nasir, some 170 miles south of Baghdad, a police official said. Five policemen were wounded after protesters hurled stones at the building and five protesters were arrested before a curfew was imposed.

A day earlier in the city of Kut, about 2,000 stone-throwing demonstrators attacked local government offices. Reports said three demonstrators were shot and killed.


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