Anti-government protestors in Iraq set fire to Iran’s consulate in the city to Najaf on Wednesday night amid ongoing demonstrations in the country, BBC reported. Reports said that staff at the consulate were able to evacuate the building before the protestors broke in.
The protests, which have been going on for nearly two months, have claimed more than 340 lives so far. The demonstrators have been demanding an end to corruption, more jobs and better public facilities. Agitators accuse the Iranian administration of intervening in the country’s internal matters and seek a change in government.
Visuals from the protests showed a large crowd outside the consulate shouting “Out, out Iran!” as they waved Iraqi flags while the building burned. More than 35 protestors and 32 Iraqi security personnel were injured during the demonstration on Wednesday, police in Najaf said, according to The New York Times. A curfew was imposed in the city of Najaf following the episode.
In Basra, protestors blocked government employees from going into their offices with slabs of concrete painted to represent coffins of relatives lost in the demonstrations.
This is the second attack on an Iranian consulate in the country this month. Three weeks ago, the consulate’s office in the city of Karbala was attacked.
Iraqi secular and religious figures condemned the violence without naming a particular group. The attack “sends a clear message that a segment of the Iraqi society rejects the Iranian political presence in the country and holds it accountable for bringing this government,” a senior cleric in Najaf, Sheikh Fadhil al-Budayri, said.
The Iraqi foreign ministry has condemned the attack on the consulate, Al Jazeera reported, citing the country’s news agency.
Most political parties in Iraq’s Parliament have connections with Iran. Promises of reform from Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who assumed office more than a year ago, have not been fulfilled, according to BBC.
“There have been martyrs among protesters and security forces, many wounded and arrested,” Mahdi said in a televised address. “We’re trying to identify mistakes.”
Following the first series of protests, Mahdi had assured that he would reshuffle his Cabinet, cut salaries of top officials and introduce schemes to curb youth unemployment. However, protestors claimed their demands were not addressed and began agitations late in October. President Barham Saleh has said that Mahdi will tender his resignation if parties can find a replacement.