Iraq has placed its security forces on high alert after protests against high unemployment and a lack of basic services in the country’s southern provinces spread to the capital, Baghdad.
The nationwide directive on Saturday was issued overnight by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who also serves as the country’s commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Reinforcement soldiers from both the Counter Terrorism Service and the Army’s Ninth Division have already been dispatched to Basra, where demonstrators gathered for the sixth consecutive day, to help protect the province’s oil fields, security sources told the Reuters news agency.
The order came in an effort to stem the burgeoning protests, which on Friday spread from oil-rich Basra – where residents had blocked access to the nearby commodities port of Umm Qasr – to the cities of Amara, Nasiriya and the Shia holy city of Najaf.
After an urgent meeting under al-Abadi’s chairmanship, the National Security Council also decided on Saturday to cut internet access in the capital to prevent the unrest from spreading further, Anadolu Agency reported.
Three people killed
Hundreds of Iraqi protesters stormed government buildings in the south of the country on Friday and stormed Najaf International Airport, demanding better services, job opportunities and an end to alleged Iranian interference.
In the latest in a week of daily protests against corruption and poor governance, demonstrators clashed with security forces in several provinces, including Maysan, Dhi Qar, Basra, Najaf and Karbala.
Officials said two more demonstrators were killed overnight in Maysan province on the border with Iran, bringing the number of people killed since the protests erupted on Sunday to three.
At least one person was killed and 15 injured in Maysan when Iraqi forces shot at protesters after they attacked and set fire to office buildings used by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Islamic Dawa Party, the Iranian-backed Al-Badr Organisation and the Shia Supreme Islamic Council Party.
According to Iraqi news website Al-Sumaria, 25 anti-riot policemen were also wounded as they tried to stop demonstrators from storming the governor’s house in the province of Dhi Qar.
The protesters had gathered near his residence and could