Top Shiite Cleric Wants Answers On Protester Deaths Within Two Weeks
Shiites (Photo Credit: AIT)

Iraq’s top Shiite Muslim cleric Ali al-Sistani has set a two-week deadline on Friday for the country’s authorities to bring to justice those who shot at protesters in a recent deadly anti-government rallies.

Concise News reports that over 104 people, mainly demonstrators, were killed in clashes between protesters and security forces in the unrest that rocked Baghdad and other parts of Iraq in October.

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On Friday, al-Sistani called on the government and judicial authorities to conduct a credible investigation into the shootings at protesters and detain the culprits within two weeks.

“This is a pressing measure at present and shows the extent of the government’s seriousness and sincerity in carrying out real reforms.’’

The influential cleric said in a sermon read out by his representative Abdel-Mahdi al-Karbalai in a mosque in the city of Karbala.

On October 1, thousands of Iraqis took to the streets of several provinces in the oil-rich country and continued for a week to protest against corruption, lack of jobs and poor services – in particular access to electricity and clean water.

The protests come one year after Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi took office in Iraq, which is still grappling with a lengthy U.S. backed military campaign against the Islamic State extremist group.

U.S. to deploy extra troops, equipment to Saudi Arabia

In another foreign news, the U.S. is deploying additional troops and military hardware to Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon on Friday said, in what appeared to be a move to counter Iran.

The decision was taken following a phone call between U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“Taken together with other deployments, this constitutes an additional 3,000 forces that have been extended or authorised within September,” the Pentagon said.

“The U.S. does not seek conflict with the Iranian regime,” the statement added.

The most recent deployment was made at the end of September, following an attack on an oil plant in the kingdom which Washington blamed on Iran.

The latest deployment includes two fighter squadrons, two Patriot batteries and a THAAD air-defence system.