Iraq’s new PM: Protesters will be protected from violent attacks

May 11 (UPI) — After releasing anti-government protesters from jail, new Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi announced Monday he would bring to justice those who attacked them.

Kadhimi, Iraq’s former intelligence head, said he responded to weekend attacks on protesters in the Basra region with warrants and arrests.

Internet videos showed that armed men fired down from a building in Basra on protesters Sunday, killing one and wounding others, the news agency Rudaw reported.

“I ordered today a dawn military raid to arrest everyone involved in the recent attack against protesters in Basra,” Kadhimi tweeted. “Peaceful protest is a common obligation and everyone should follow it. I promised that those who have spilled Iraqi blood will not be allowed to rest and we are honoring that promise.”

Since October, crowds of young Iraqis have been protesting across the country demanding jobs and complaining about government corruption.

Sunday, in Baghdad, protesters burned tires on a bridge leading to the Green Zone, site of Iraqi government offices and many foreign embassies.

At least 600 protesters have been killed and more than 18,000 injured since the unrest began, said human rights group Amnesty International.

The organization accused pro-Iraqi security militias of attacking peaceful protesters with “live ammunition, hunting rifles, live fire consistent with sniper fire, tear gas and water cannons,” in an open letter to Kadhimi published Friday.

Kadhimi, a former journalist, was sworn in as president Thursday, and immediately ordered the release of anti-government protesters held in Iraqi jails, Voice of America reported.

Iraqi’s constitution guarantees the right to peaceful protest “provided that it is not accompanied by an act contrary to the law,” the Supreme Judiciary Council said in a statement Sunday.

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