Teen killed as Iraq guards fire into demo

A teenager was killed when private security guards opened fire on protesters in south Iraq who tried to storm government offices.

Last Updated: Feb 16, 2011, 21:15 PM IST

Kut: A teenager was killed on Wednesday when
private security guards opened fire on protesters in south
Iraq who tried to storm government offices and set fire to
them, police and medical officials said.

The protest, which also left 27 people wounded, was the
country`s most violent since massive uprisings in Tunisia and
Egypt in recent weeks led to the resignation of each country`s
respective dictator.

More than 2,000 demonstrators had gathered in the centre
of Kut, capital of Wasit province south of Baghdad, to demand
provincial governor Latif Hamad al-Tarfa resign over poor
basic services like electricity and water.

The demonstration began at around 9:00 am local time
(0600 GMT), eventually leading to angry Iraqis setting fire to
two buildings and several nearby caravans.

"We have received one dead body and are treating 27
wounded," said Majid Mohammed Hassan from Kut hospital`s
administrative unit. Hassan said the fatality had been a
16-year-old boy who suffered a bullet to the chest.

Protesters had initially attempted to break in to the
provincial council`s offices, which had emptied of staff
fearful of the demonstrations, but police and soldiers fired
into the air, compelling the crowd to pull back.

Demonstrators then set fire to caravans that usually
house the Iraqi private guards charged with securing the Wasit
headquarters compound.

The guards, who were stationed on the roof of the
provincial administrative office, within the same compound,
fired into the air in a bid to again disperse the
demonstrators.

At that point, the crowd of demonstrators stormed the
administrative building, spurring the guards to fire directly
into the crowd, an agency journalist at the scene said.

"Those were private guards, only they fired at the
protesters. They were outside the law," police Brigadier
General Hussein Jassim said. "Our forces only fired into
the air."

Major Mohammed Saleh, the top police intelligence officer
in Kut, said: "Measures will be taken against the private
guards but after the situation has calmed down."

The protesters then set fire to the administrative
building, and proceeded to the governor`s official residence
nearby, which was also set alight.

PTI