Iraqis stage 'day of rage' despite government lockdown
Iraqi protesters burned or tried to storm government buildings from the southern port of Basra to the northern cities of Mosul and Huwaijah, where at least five were killed.
An unprecedented lockdown of Iraq's capital failed to deter thousands of Iraqis from protesting today, serving notice that the antigovernment rage sweeping the Arab world will not be easily extinguished here.
The "day of rage" protests rocked other Iraqi cities as well, as demonstrators burned or tried to storm government buildings from the southern port of Basra to the northern cities of Mosul and Huwaijah, where at least five protesters were shot dead by security forces.
The Iraqi government on Thursday gave Baghdad residents only a half-hour’s warning that, starting at midnight, vehicles would be banned from the roads until further notice. Despite the measure, demonstrators walked for hours today to reach Tahrir (Liberation) Square. Police estimated a turnout of up to 4,000 people. Eight years since Saddam Hussein was toppled, many Iraqis say their lives are still almost as difficult now as they were then.
Baghdad’s international airport was also shut down, and the fortress-like green zone, a mini-city housing the Iraqi government and the huge US embassy, was further sealed off with new concrete barriers. The moves followed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's warnings that protests would be infiltrated by Saddam Hussein loyalists and targeted by Al Qaeda suicide bombers.
There were no bombs or shootings but Jumhuriya Bridge, the main access point to the green zone, became a battleground in Friday’s demonstration when protestors tried to breach newly installed concrete barriers.