Evening Express

Rockets fired at airport amid Basra unrest

Assailants have fired three rockets at Basra Airport, officials said, amid the most serious violence in the Iraqi city in years.

An official at the airport said it was not clear who was behind the attack with Katyusha missiles, and there was no immediate claim of responsibility. No casualties were reported.

The official said the incident did not disrupt flights in or out of the city.

The attack followed a chaotic night that saw hundreds of angry protesters storm and set fire to the Iranian consulate and other Iranian interests in Basra.

Protests in Basra (Nabil al-Jurani/AP)

The protests in Iraq’s oil-rich southern Shiite heartland are calling for an end to endemic corruption, soaring joblessness and poor public services.

Demonstrators at the consulate had shouted anti-Iranian slogans, burned an Iranian flag and trampled over a portrait of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi condemned the attack, which he said caused significant damage to the building. He called for maximum punishment for the assailants.

Protesters burn an Iranian flag (Nabil al-Jurani/AP)

Elsewhere in the city, protesters tried to attack the headquarters of the Iran-backed Assaib Ahl Al-Haq Shiite militia and the guards stationed there opened fire.

Angry protesters marched to the city’s presidential palaces compound, where Shiite paramilitary troops are stationed, and tried to breach it.

At least three cars driven by troops ploughed into the protesters, killing one and wounding four others, according to a health official.

Other protesters set tyres on fire on main streets and highways, ignoring a curfew imposed by the authorities.

Mourners carry the Iraqi flag-draped coffin of a protester (Nabil al-Jurani/AP)

More than 10 protesters have died in clashes with security forces since Monday, including three who were shot dead by security forces on Thursday night as protesters lobbed petrol bombs and set fire to a government building and offices of Shiite militias in the city.

Many residents of the predominantly Shiite city accuse Iranian-backed political parties of interfering with Iraqi politics and some hold them responsible for mismanagement and poor services in the city.

Prime minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered an investigation into the violence, which shows no sign of abating.

The unrest comes amid a political crisis in Baghdad, adding to overall tensions in the country.

The newly elected parliament earlier this week held its first session since national elections in May, but the session was adjourned amid disagreements as two blocs, both claiming to hold the most seats, vied for the right to form a new government.