Pro-Iran protesters torch Kurd party offices in Baghdad

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A member of the Iraqi security forces intervenes as demonstrators, supporters of the Hashed al Shaabi, burn down the Kurdish Democratic Party's headquarters in the capital Baghdad on October 17, 2020. (AFP)
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Iraqi demonstrators, supporters of the Hashed Al-Shaabi, tear up a portrait of Masoud Barzani, former leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, as they burn and ransack the party's headquarters in the capital Baghdad on October 17, 2020. (AFP)
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Iraqi demonstrators, supporters of the Hashed al Shaabi, burn down the Kurdish Democratic Party's headquarters in the capital Baghdad on October 17, 2020. (AFP)
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Iraqi security forces intervene as demonstrators, supporters of the Hashed Al-Shaabi, burn down the Kurdish Democratic Party's headquarters in the capital Baghdad on October 17, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 17 October 2020

Pro-Iran protesters torch Kurd party offices in Baghdad

  • Protesters burned Kurdish flags while others carried posters of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and his Iraqi lieutenant Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis
  • Hoshyar Zebari said the government needed to “clean up the Green Zone from the presence of Hashed militias”

BAGHDAD: Supporters of Hashed Al-Shaabi, an Iraqi paramilitary network dominated by Iran-backed factions, Saturday burned down the main Kurdish party’s headquarters in Baghdad after criticism from a Kurdish ex-minister.
Hundreds of Hashed demonstrators swept past a security detail and stormed into the offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which runs the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq, and torched them.
Protesters burned Kurdish flags while others carried posters of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and his Iraqi lieutenant Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, who were killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad last January.
The Hashed paramilitaries were formed in 2014 from mostly-Shiite armed groups and volunteers to fight Daesh.
Hashed has since been formally integrated into Iraq’s armed forces and has representation in parliament, and it has spawned several ideologically affiliated armed groups.
Earlier this month, Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s longtime former foreign minister and a key Kurdish power-broker, said the government needed to “clean up the Green Zone (in Baghdad) from the presence of Hashed militias.”
They were operating “outside the law,” Zebari, a KDP member, said in comments to the US-funded Al-Hurra television.
Vian Sabry, head of the KDP bloc in parliament, condemned Saturday’s attack.
“This isn’t a protest because protests are supposed to be peaceful as per the constitution,” she told AFP.
She blamed “unaccountable factions for being behind such acts,” without elaborating.
On October 1, Kurdish authorities accused Hashed militants of firing rockets at the airport in Irbil, the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan, where US troops are based.
Around 90 rocket attacks have targeted the US presence in Iraq since the January drone strike, with several claimed by pro-Iran factions.


Iran breaks its record for most new coronavirus cases in one day

Updated 20 October 2020

Iran breaks its record for most new coronavirus cases in one day

  • Iran, which emerged early on as an epicenter of the virus, has seen its worst wave of deaths from the illness in recent weeks
TEHRAN: Iran on Tuesday reported its highest single-day toll of new coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic with more than 5,000 new infections, as the country struggles to cope with a surge in transmission.
Iran’s health ministry also reported that 322 people had died from the virus, pushing the death toll over 31,000. The new infection count on Tuesday eclipsed the previous high of 4,830 last week, shining a light on the nation’s floundering efforts to combat the virus.
Iran, which emerged early on as an epicenter of the virus, has seen its worst wave of deaths from the illness in recent weeks. Monday’s death toll shattered its previous single-day record, prompting state news outlets to declare it a “black day.”
Hospitals in the hard-hit capital of Tehran are overflowing. Last week, health officials announced that the city had run out of intensive care beds for virus patients.
The increase comes after Iranians packed cafes and restaurants at vacation spots during recent national holidays, and after schools reopened for in-person instruction last month.
The government has resisted a total lockdown because it does not want to further weaken an economy already devastated by unprecedented US sanctions. The Trump administration re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran after withdrawing in 2018 from Tehran’s nuclear accord with world powers.
With the death toll skyrocketing, authorities are now starting to impose more restrictions. The government closed museums, libraries, beauty salons, schools and universities in Tehran earlier this month, and imposed a mask mandate outdoors.