ARBIL: A Kurdish regional opposition’s offices were targeted by looters, officials said Friday, after Iraq’s most violent protests since uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia left three dead in two days.
Rallies against corruption, poor basic services and high unemployment in several cities across Iraq have also left more than 100 people wounded.
The rare demonstrations in the autonomous Kurdish region were the deadliest since the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.
Iraqi and Kurdish leaders have pledged to bring the perpetrators of the violence to justice. They have also attempted to head off the protests by slashing the salaries of ministers and MPs and diverting cash earmarked for the purchase of fighter jets to buy food for the needy.
On Friday, officials said looters had targeted seven offices belonging to the Goran opposition party in the northern Kurdish provinces of Arbil and Dohuk in response to violent protests a day earlier in the region’s second city of Sulaimaniyah against the main ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
Goran has denied any involvement in Thursday’s demonstration, which left two dead, men aged 18 and 25, and 54 wounded, according to provincial health chief Raykot Hama Rashid, when security forces fired into the air to disperse crowds.
By mid-day Friday, an AFP journalist and Arbil province’s governor said Kurdish security forces had evicted the looters from the Goran offices and party officials, who accused KDP loyalists of involvement in the attacks, said they would return to the sites once the situation had calmed.
For decades, the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan of Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani have lorded over the region, comprised of three provinces, with Goran only emerging in 2009 as a credible opposition.
Thursday’s deaths followed violent demonstrations a day earlier in the southern city of Kut where one person was killed and 47 others wounded, with the latest violence prompting New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch to call for "an independent and transparent investigation".
Also on Friday, hundreds of demonstrators blocked a bridge in the southern port city of Basra for an hour, calling for an improvement in basic services such as water and electricity provision, and a lowering of unemployment.
"I have filed my papers with the provincial council but have gotten no job until now," said Hussein Abdel, an unemployed 25-year-old. "There is corruption in Basra — they have to start taking care of this city and must stop making fake promises."
It was the second straight day of protests in Basra, while demonstrations have also been held near the southern city of Nasiriyah and elsewhere in the country in recent days.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Thursday that peaceful protests were the right of all Iraqis, but warned that those inciting violence would be brought to justice.
"I welcome those who demonstrate peacefully for their legitimate rights, but I am not in favour of those who exploit those claims to incite riots," he told reporters in Baghdad.
"The perpetrators will be brought to court and they will be punished."