Iraqi officials have imposed a curfew on Basra, the country’s second biggest town, following five days of deadly demonstrations, in which government buildings have been ransacked and set alight by protesters.
The curfew will start at 4pm local time (1300 GMT) on Saturday, a military statement said.
Demonstrators angry over perceived political corruption have in latests action fired rockets at the airport. On Friday, they burnt the Iranian consulate in the southern part of the town.
Unidentified attackers also fired shells into Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone in a rare attack on an area that houses parliament, government offices and the US embassy. There were no casualties.
Basra has seen a surge in protests since Tuesday, with demonstrators torching government buildings as well as political party and militia offices, as anger boils over after the hospitalisation of 30,000 people who had drunk polluted water.
At least nine demonstrators have been killed since then in clashes with security forces, Mehdi al-Tamimi, head of Basra’s human rights council, has said.
In a bid to quell the violence, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said late Friday that he had instructed security forces to “act decisively against the acts of vandalism that accompanied the demonstrations”.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, which includes the army and police, said in a statement there would be a “severe” response with “exceptional security measures”, including banning protests and group travel.
The wave of protests first broke out in July in oil-rich Basra province before spreading to other parts of the country, with demonstrators also condemning corruption among Iraqi officials and demanding jobs.
“We’re thirsty, we’re hungry, we are sick and abandoned,” protester Ali Hussein told AFP on Friday after another night of violence.
“Demonstrating is a sacred duty and all honest people ought to join.”
Thousands of demonstrators rallied outside the Iranian consulate on Friday while hundreds stormed the building and set it on fire, an AFP photographer said.
Basra airport was targeted by rocket fire on Saturday after a night of protests over perceived misrule by Iraq’s political elite during which demonstrators torched the Iranian consulate and briefly took oilfield workers hostage.
Iraqi security sources said three Katyusha rockets fired by unknown assailants had hit the perimeter of the airport, although no damage or casualties had been reported. The U.S. consulate is adjacent to Basra’s airport.
An official at the Iraqi airport said there was no disruption to operations, and flights were taking off and landing as normal.