NAJAF, Iraq,— Police in Iraq’s mostly Shi’ite southern city of Najaf say anti-government protesters have set fire to the Iranian Consulate in the restive city for the second time in a week.
The arson attack on December 1 came as Iraqis continue taking to the streets of Baghdad and Iraq’s Shi’ite-majority south.
Protesters, mostly young people, have reportedly accused the Iraqi elites of being corrupt and serving the interests of foreign powers, especially Iran, while the country is plagued by endemic poverty and mass unemployment.
Staff at the consulate were evacuated before the incident.
Authorities announced a curfew shortly after the fire began, state media reported.
Protesters entered the compound on Wednesday and set fire to the consulate building.
Security forces responded by opening fire on the protesters, killing five and wounding 32 others.
The arson attack occurred despite the approval by Iraq’s parliament on December 1 of the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi’s government after two months of protests and violent police crackdowns that have left more than 400 people dead.
Iran is seen by many Iraqis as a supporter of Mahdi’s government.
On November 27, angry crowds in Najaf set fire to the Iranian consulate, chanting “Iran out of Iraq.”
Staff at the consulate managed to flee just before protesters stormed the building.
Earlier in November, the Iranian Consulate in the mainly Shi’ite city of Karbala was targeted by protesters.
Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said the earlier attacks on Iranian diplomatic buildings were “aimed at damaging the historical relations between Iraq and Iran.”
But Iran’s Foreign Ministry has blamed Baghdad for failing to protect the consulate and has demanded decisive action against “aggressors.”
The violence has been the worst to hit Iraq since it put down an insurgency by the Sunni Muslim Islamic State group nearly two years ago
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