Iraqi reporter injured day after activist’s killing sparks protests

People chanted slogans as they marched with the body of renowned Iraqi anti-government activist Ihab al-Wazni following his assassination.

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Early on Monday, an Iraqi journalist was in intensive care after being gunshot in the head, doctors said only 24 hours after a leading anti-government activist was killed.

Anti-corruption campaigner Ihab Al-Wazni was shot dead early Sunday in Karbala, sending protest movement supporters onto the streets to demand an end to such bloodshed and official impunity.

Al-Wazni had led protests in the Shiite shrine city of Karbala, where pro-Tehran armed groups hold major sway.

He was shot overnight outside his home by men on motorbikes using a gun equipped with a silencer, in an ambush caught on surveillance cameras. His death was confirmed by security forces and activists.

Hours after his death, reporter Ahmed Hassan was in intensive care after receiving “two bullets in the head and one in the shoulder,” a doctor told AFP.

“He was targeted as he got out of his car to go home,” in Diwaniya in the south of the country, according to a witness.

Al-Wazni had narrowly escaped death in December 2019, when men on motorbikes used silenced weapons to kill fellow activist Fahem Al-Tai as he was dropping him home in Karbala.

Both were key figures in a national protest movement that erupted against the Iraqi government and corruption in October 2019.

Around 600 activists from the movement have been killed, whether on the streets during rallies or targeted on their doorsteps.

Protests broke out in Karbala, Nassiriya and Diwaniya in southern Iraq in reaction to Wazni’s killing, as people called for an end to the bloodshed and to rampant corruption.

The Iraqi Communist Party and the Al-Beit Al-Watani (National Bloc) party, born out of the anti-government protests, also said they would boycott Iraq’s parliamentary elections in October, in protest.

In a video recording in the morgue where Wazni’s body was initially held, a fellow activist blamed pro-Tehran groups for the killing.

“It is the Iranian militias who killed Ihab,” said the activist who was not named.

“Iran out!” and “The people want the fall the regime!” chanted hundreds of mourners on Sunday as they carried Wazni’s body to the Shiite shrines in Karbala, under a sea of Iraqi flags.

Police said they would “spare no effort” to find “the terrorists” behind Wazni’s killing.

Politicians, including Shiite leader Ammar Al-Haki, deplored the death and called for justice.

Around 30 activists have died in targeted killings and dozens of others have been abducted since October 2019.

Such killings are normally carried out in the dead of night by men on motorbikes, and nobody claims responsibility.

Activists and the UN repeatedly blame “militias.”

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