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Protesters clash with security forces in Basra for a second night

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Protesters clash with security forces in Basra for a second night
Mourners carry the coffin of a protester, who was killed in clashes with security forces in Basra, Iraq September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Essam al-Sudani   -   Copyright  ESSAM AL-SUDANI(Reuters)
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By Aref Mohammed

BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) – Hundreds of protesters clashed with security forces in Iraq’s southern oil hub Basra for a second day on Tuesday, after a protester died from injuries sustained during Monday’s demonstrations.

Protesters hurled petrol bombs and stones at the provincial government headquarters for a second night, and were attempting to block roads leading to the building. Security forces fired live rounds in the air as well as tear gas, local sources said.

Pillars of smoke could be seen billowing from the outer perimeter of the building, where many had gathered to mourn the dead protester, Yasser Makki.

Government buildings in Basra have been the target of demonstrators who are demanding better public services and an end to corruption.

Protests have swept cities in the long neglected south, Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim heartland, over electricity outages during the hot Iraqi summer, a lack of jobs and proper government services, and entrenched graft.

But public anger has swelled at a time when politicians are struggling to form a new government after an inconclusive parliamentary election in May. Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has expressed support for the protests.

Earlier on Tuesday, mourners carried Makki’s body near the building, chanting “Yasser’s blood will not be lost”. They damaged the gate of the local government building but were dispersed by security forces using tear gas before they could enter it.

As the clashes continued into Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered an investigation into Makki’s death.

“Our orders are clear in banning the firing of live ammunition during demonstrations,” Abadi said in his weekly news conference, according to state TV.

Abadi suspended the electricity minister last month, saying his government had begun punishing those responsible for poor services in Basra, Iraq’s second biggest city.

The local head of Iraq’s Human Rights Commission, Mahdi al-Tamimi, had earlier called for an investigation into Makki’s death.

“We call on the Iraqi judiciary to open an immediate and urgent investigation into the killing of a demonstrator who was shot in the shoulder and subjected to electric shocks by security forces,” Tamimi said in a statement.

Six protesters were taken to hospital with injuries sustained during protests on Monday night, health sources said.

(Reporting by Aref Mohammed; writing by Raya Jalabi, editing by Angus MacSwan and Ed Osmond)

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