Gunmen shoot dead Iraqi activist in Basra who led anti-government protests

A political activists was shot dead in the Iraqi city of Basra, in the third such attack within a week.

Riham Yaqoob, a doctor who led local anti-government protests, was killed by unidentified assailants on Wednesday.

The killing on Friday of another activist, Tahseen Osama, saw protesters take to the streets to demand the authorities uncover those responsible.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi dismissed Basra’s chief of police and other security officials in response.

Mr Kadhimi – a former intelligence chief – took office in May, five months after his predecessor resigned in response to mass protests in the capital Baghdad, Basra and other southern cities.

Until the Covid-19 pandemic reached Iraq, thousands of people were regularly taking to the streets to express their anger at endemic corruption, high unemployment, dire public services and foreign interference.

Their demands included sweeping away Iraq’s political system, which allocates positions to political parties based on ethnic and sectarian identity, encouraging patronage and corruption.

More than 500 protesters were shot dead by security forces and gunmen suspected of links to militias during the unrest. Thousands of others were injured.

Mr Kadhimi has pledged to hold those responsible for the killings to account and offered the dead protesters’ families $8,380 in compensation.