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Iraqi protesters torch Iranian Consulate

The Associated Press

Protesters raise the Iraqi flag at the gate of the Iranian Consulate before storming and burning it in Basra, Iraq, on Friday.

The Associated Press BASRA, Iraq (AP) — Angry protesters stormed the Iranian Consulate in the southern city of Basra on Friday, setting a fire inside amid a wave of demonstrations that have turned deadly in the past few days, a security official and eyewitnesses said.

At least 10 protesters have died in clashes with security forces since Monday, including three who were shot dead by security forces on Thursday night as protesters lobbed Molotov cocktails and set fire to a government building and offices of Shiite militias in the city.

The protests in Basra and other cities, the most serious to shake Iraq’s oil-rich southern Shiite heartland in years, have since July been calling for an end to endemic corruption, soaring joblessness and poor public services. Clashes erupted last 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 protesters shouted anti-Iranian slogans outside the Iranian Consulate on Friday evening, including “Iran, out, out!” before they stormed it and set a fire inside. Smoke could be seen rising from the building. Protesters also burned an Iranian flag. Many residents of the predominantly Shiite city accuse Iranian-backed political parties of interfering with Iraqi politics and some hold them responsible for mismanagement and the poor services in the city.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi, condemned the attack on Iran’s consulate in Basra and said none of the staff have so far been hurt, Iran’s state TV reported Friday.

Ghasemi said the attack caused significant damage to the consulate building, and he called for maximum punishment for the assailants.

Although the U.S. government has disagreements with Iran, the State Department criticized the attack, without explicitly mentioning Iran. “The United States condemns violence against diplomats, including that which occurred today in Basrah,” it said.

Elsewhere in the city, protesters tried to attack the headquarters of Assaib Ahl Al-Haq Shiite militia and the guards stationed there opened fire. It was not immediately clear if there were casualties.Speech

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