On the morning of September 8th, several rockets were fired at Iraq’s Basra airport, following two nights of violent protests. The US Consulate in Basra is located in close proximity to the airport.
An unnamed local official at Basra International Airport, cited by AP, said three rockets were fired at the airport, adding that there had been no casualties or injuries and the attack did not disrupt flight traffic. It is yet unclear who carried out the attack.
The firing of the rockets follows two nights of violent protests in the city of Basra, which is the second largest city in Iraq.
On the evening of September 7th, thousands of Iraqi protesters stormed the Iranian consulate in the southern part of the city and set it on fire during the protests. The Iraqi Foreign Minister condemned the attack in an official statement. He also called on the Iraqi government to protect all diplomatic missions in Basra. “The targeting of diplomatic missions is unacceptable and harms the interests of Iraq and its relations with the countries of the world and it is not related to the slogans of protests, nor the demands for services and water,” the statement read.
After the incident, an unnamed Iraqi security source was cited by Iraqi al-Sumaria News outlet saying that a large unit of special forces was deployed in Basra to secure order. Anonymous local sources said that the unit managed to prevent the protestors from attacking the U.S. consulate in the southern city.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry also strongly condemned the attack on its consulate in Iraq’s southern city of Basra. IRNA, Iran’s state news agency, reported that Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi denounced brutal attack on Iran’s consulate general in Basra and called for punishment of the perpetrators of the incident. He recalled Iraq’s responsibility to protect diplomatic sites and warned of “hidden elements seeking to mar the two nations’ relations.” He also said that there had been no casualties. “Of course, because of the pre-cautionary measures taken before in earlier threats, fortunately, no staffer in the mission has been harmed,” Qasemi said.
The US State Department also released a statement regarding the incident, although it did not explicitly mention Iran. “The United States condemns violence against diplomats, including that which occurred today in Basrah,” the statement read.
After the September 7th protests, the coordination committees of the protests in Basra announced that the protests will stop for several days in order to allow Iraqi security forces to secure the city.
“The purpose of pausing the protests is to give an opportunity for Iraqi security forces to arrest the saboteurs and to help in restoring security in the province … the protestors will return to demonstrate again once the chaos in the province is over,” one of the protests said, cited by RT.
The new wave of protests began on September 6th, when thousands took to the streets, targeting and setting fire to several government and political part buildings, including the center of the Islamic Dawa Party and the headquarters of the Iranian-backed Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba armed groups.
Saif al-Bader, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health of Iraq said that during the September 6th protests, one protestor lost his life and 35 people were injured during clashes between the protestors and Iraqi security forces. the Basra Operations Command imposed a one-hour long curfew, following the clashes.
The newly-elected Iraqi parliament is to hold an emergency session on September 8th to handle the unrest in Basra.
Following long protests in July, which took place in several Iraqi cities, the new government was praised for its promises to increase funding for southern Iraq, however no such thing has happened as of yet.
The protests in September, as well as previously in July, initially began in Basra, because the city began to suffer from an unprecedented drought, power cuts, a high level of pollution of air and water, as well as the high levels of corruption and rising unemployment. These conditions have put the oil-rich city under threat of a cholera outbreak. The government is yet to take any measures to prevent the catastrophe.