Iraq: TV journalist fatally shot day after gunmen killed anti-govt. activist

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An Iraqi journalist is in intensive care after being shot in the head early Monday, doctors said, just 24 hours after a leading anti-government activist was killed.

Unidentified masked gunman shot Ahmed Hassan, a reporter for the broadcaster Al-Forat TV, in the head in front of his home in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Diwaniyah early on Monday.

Hassan underwent brain surgery in a hospital in the capital Baghdad and is listed as under serious condition and is expected to remain in intensive care.

The shooting of Hassan came the day after anti-government activist Ihab al-Wazni was shot dead early Sunday in Karbala, sending his supporters onto the streets to demand justice.

Demonstrators, who blamed militias backed by neighbouring Iran, set fire to the outer gates of the Iranian consulate in the Shia Muslim holy city a show of anger.

Mr. Wazni had been a vocal critic of Iran’s influence in Iraq and his mother told the Al Jazeera news organisation that he had received numerous threats from Iran-linked groups.

“The militias are everywhere in the streets. They have a list which includes the names of all the activists. They will kill them one by one,” she said.

The Iranian foreign ministry said on Monday it strongly condemned the attack on the consulate, but it did not comment on the killing of Mr. Wazni.

A member of the semi-official Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, Fadel al-Garawi, said they had recorded 89 attacks targeting activists, journalists, lawyers and other civil society members since mass protests against corruption, high unemployment and dire public services erupted in October 2019.

Thirty-four of the attacks have been fatal.

“In the event that the series of assassinations continue, Iraq will be dragged into chaos and a dangerous slope,” Mr. Garawi was quoted as saying by the Shafaq News website.

He called on the authorities to uncover those behind the attacks and bring them to justice – something they have consistently failed to do.

Alforat TV’s owner, Shia politician Ammar al-Hakim, urged the government to protect freedom of speech and “urgently” shed light on the attacks.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, a former intelligence chief who took office a year ago, repeated his promise to catch “all the killers”.

Mr. Kadhimi has also vowed to investigate the killing of more than 550 people by security forces and gunmen at anti-government protests in late 2019. (Source: BBC)

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