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Iraq protests: Curfew imposed following Iranian consulate set alight into Najaf

It was the most powerful expression yet of this anti-Iranian opinion of Iraqi demonstrators, who have taken to the roads for months at Baghdad and the Shi’ite Muslim-majority southwest – and also have been gunned down in their hundreds by Iraqi security forces.

Staff in the consulate had evacuated soon before demonstrators broke in, authorities and civil defense-first responders said.

Local governments imposed a curfew after the episode, state media reported.

The protests that started in Baghdad on Oct. 1 and also have spread through southern towns would be the most complicated challenge facing the Shi’ite-dominated ruling class which has dominated state associations and patronage networks because of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion which toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.

Young, largely Shi’ite protesters state politicians are corrupt, beholden to foreign forces — notably Iran — and blame them for a failure to recuperate from years of battle despite relative calm since the defeat of Islamic State from 2017.

Protesters blocked streets with burning tires in southern Iraq and clashed with police in Baghdad before on Wednesday, intending to utilize economic disturbance as leverage to drive the authorities in power and root out country corruption.

Security forces shot dead two people from Kerbala, near Najaf, two and overnight in Baghdad on Wednesday, while a fifth man died when security forces opened fire during protests from the southern oil funding of Basra.

Demonstrators prevented government workers getting to work in Basra by installing concrete obstacles painted as mock-up coffins of relatives killed in months of unrest, a Reuters witness said.

Police have warned against manipulation of their unrest by armed groups, particularly if protest-related violence spread into northern Iraq, where IS militants are waging an insurgency.