BAGHDAD: Security forces have launched a search operation to determine the source of three mortar shells that landed inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, following a night of violent confrontations between protesters and security forces in the country’s south in which three people were shot dead.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the mortar shells that landed just after midnight Friday in an abandoned lot in the Green Zone, and no casualties were reported.
The rare attack comes amid a political crisis and worsening protests against poor services and unemployment in the southern city of Basra, which have turned violent in the past few days.
Hundreds of angry protesters in Basra took to the streets on Thursday night. Some clashed with security forces, lobbing Molotov cocktails and setting fire to a government building as well as the offices of Shiite militias. At least three people were shot dead in confrontations with security forces.
Residents of Basra and other cities in Iraq’s oil-rich southern Shiite heartland have been protesting since July over endemic corruption, soaring joblessness and poor public services. Clashes erupted earlier this week, leaving several civilians and police dead. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered an investigation into the violence which shows no sign of abating.
The violence prompted the temporary head of Iraq’s parliament, the eldest lawmaker, to call an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss the snowballing protests.
The newly-elected parliament earlier this week held its first session since the national elections in May. The session was adjourned amid disagreements as two blocs, both claiming to hold the most seats, vied for the right to form a new government.