Protests Rock Southern Iraq: Protests that have roiled southern Iraq since July 8 continued on July 16, National Public Radio (NPR) reported. The protests, which come amid growing anger at the Iraqi government over corruption and a lack of public services, have intensified and spread over the last week. Two protesters were killed on Sunday in the town of Samawa after police opened fire on hundreds of protesters storming a courthouse, while at least 48 protesters were wounded in Basra after police fired in the air to disperse a crowd. More injuries and reported deaths have occurred in clashes between security forces and protesters across the region, and riots have intensified in the Shi’a holy cities of Najaf and Kerbala. The Iraqi government severely restricted internet access to most of the country, blocked social media, and cut electricity to several southern cities over the weekend, while Iraq’s influential top Shi’a cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a statement in solidarity with the protesters, noting that they faced an “extreme lack of public services.” In an attempt to quell the protests, Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi announced a “solution package” on Sunday that promises 10,000 new public sector jobs and improved public services while simultaneously deploying more troops to the region. In another indication of Abadi’s tenuous position, the prime minister’s visit to Basra over the weekend quickly ended after he was evacuated by the army, with videos circulating on social media of Abadi and his security detail escaping from a crowd of protesters.

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