Ali Shekhu and Ali Jawad
BAGHDAD (AA) - Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi on Friday pledged to deal "firmly" with protesters who over the last two days have attacked the offices of certain political parties in the country’s predominantly-Shia south.
"At a time when our security forces are advancing in Fallujah… certain unknown individuals are torching the headquarters and offices of political parties under the guise of ‘holding demonstrations’," read a statement issued by al-Abadi’s office.
"We warn against these reckless and criminal acts that target public institutions and political offices," the statement added. "We will act firmly and decisively against those that threaten public order."
Al-Abadi urged Iraqi political leaders to reject "such heinous acts" and called on what he described as "patriotic demonstrators" to distance themselves from "acts of extremism".
Over the last two days, hundreds of supporters of firebrand Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have attacked political party offices in the southern Najaf, Karbala, Muthanna and Dhi Qar provinces.
Offices to have been attacked include those of Nuri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party, Ammar al-Hakim’s Supreme Council, the Al-Ahrar Bloc and the National Reform Trend.
Jabbar al-Saidi, a security official in the southern Basra province, told Anadolu Agency that the situation in the province was "until now under control".
"There has been no encroachment on political offices [in Basra], while talks are underway with local leaders of the Sadrist movement -- and other groups responsible for these demonstrations -- with a view to restoring calm," he said.
Iraq has suffered a deepening political crisis since March, when al-Abadi -- under mounting pressure to reign in rampant state corruption -- attempted to form a government of "technocrats" untainted by corruption or sectarian affiliations.
Iraq’s various political parties, however, including a number of Shia ones, have until now blocked the new "technocrat" government from being drawn up.