Iraqi DefMin: Protesters being killed by ‘third party’, not security forces

Iraq’s defense minister has accused an unspecified “third party” of killing protesters to ignite violence with the security forces in the streets and cause national “instability”, as protests in the country’s south and center continue.

Najah al-Shimmari made the claim during an interview with France 24 in Paris on Saturday.

“The Iraqi national security forces are not who is killing the protesters,” Shimmari said. “There is a third party killing the protesters, to push protesters to clash with security forces to spread instability in Iraq.” He offered no elaboration on who said “third party” may be.

The number of casualties rose yesterday after a blast by an unconfirmed party hit the protester stronghold Tahrir Square in Baghdad. According to the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR), one protester was killed, while 19 others were wounded.

According to the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR), more than 123 protesters were detained between November 12-15 in the provinces of Baghdad, Basra and Dhi Qar alone, with only 35 released to date. Shimmari claimed in Saturday’s interview that Iraqi security forces were only detaining “troublemakers” who infiltrate protests solely to attack security forces and public and private property.

Anti-government protests began in Baghdad on October 1, quickly spreading to Iraq’s central and southern provinces. At least 320 protesters and security force personnel have died and 15,000 others have been wounded since protests began, according to the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee.

Security forces have faced particularly vehement condemnation for the direct fire of military-grade tear gas canisters, some of which have fatally pierced protester skulls.