Controversial electoral commission’s office comes under heavy gunfire in Basra

Iraqi security forces fire tear gas after supporters of Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr tried to approach the heavily fortified Green Zone during a protest at Tahrir Square in Baghdad,Iraq February 11, 2017. REUTERS /Alaa Al-Marjani

Basra ( The office of the controversial provincial elections commission in Basra became under heavy gunfire at a late hour of Saturday, an official source said Sunday, hours after protests in Baghdad tarnishing the panel’s integrity turned deadly.

The source told Alsumaria News that the elections commission’s office in Tweisa neighborhood came under intense gunfire, causing material damages to the office as well as fires at a car parked nearby.

The source urged protection as commission officials had received threats via social networks.

A security source, who asked not to be named, said the office is under the guardianship of a police force and is located near a police station, adding that security measures will be reinforced there after the incident.

Demonstrators loyal to influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr staged protests in Baghdad on Saturday to denounce the commission’s formation who al-Sadr had accused of corruption and of adopting an unfair electoral system for the provincial polls.

Steep political divisions and disagreements among Iraq’s sect-influenced political group had caused the polls to be postponed to 2018 instead of this April.

Al-Sadr, who had championed massive anti-corruption protests against the government of Nouri al-Maliki in 2014, is now denouncing the electoral commission as corrupt and under influence of Maliki. Opponents to the electoral law say it fails to include all of Iraq’s political and social stripes.

Saturday’s protests claimed four deaths among protesters and eight casualties among security services.

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