Nearly 1,200 angry residents of Babil province, some 100km south of the capital, Baghdad, took to the streets on Wednesday to protest poor services and demand the resignation of several local officials.
“If these officials aren’t up to the responsibility, they should resign,” said Hussam Mustafa, a 25-year-old employee at the city’s civil defence directorate. “We have no potable water, and must bring water from the river,” he said. “We have just three hours of electricity every day, and no fuel at the petrol stations.”
Demonstrators carried banners reading, “We want electricity” and “We demand that the local council resign.” Some also shouted pro-Saddam Hussein slogans, such as “We would sacrifice ourselves for your sake, Saddam.”
In a bid to disperse angry protestors, police guards for the local council fired shots into the air. Demonstrators responded by throwing stones at police personnel and damaging automobiles. No casualties, however, were reported.
Local council members, meanwhile, defended themselves from popular charges of negligence. “The deteriorating security situation and shortage of government funds have crippled all these [infrastructure] projects,” said Mohamed al-Masoudi, head of the Babil provincial council. “We informed the government of our problems,” he added, saying, “The solution isn’t in our hands...it's in the hands of the new government.”
Last Saturday, a chlorine gas canister exploded at a water purification station in the Aufi district, poisoning more than 104 Babil residents, according to police Capt Muthana Khalid. Casualties reportedly included children, women and elderly living near the station.
Governor Salim Said Mahdi ordered an investigation into the incident and directed the provincial justice office to file a claim against those responsible. “We’re working hard with municipal office managers to create plans for improving deteriorating services, like electricity, water and fuel,” Mahdi said at a press conference on Monday.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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