Continued Demonstrations In Kut

Continued Demonstrations in Kut: Ukrainians kill 1, wound 2 Demonstrators;

Kut Governor resigns

Demonstrations against unemployment and the poor economic situation in Kut continued for the fourth day on Tuesday. Demonstrators traded gunfire with the Iraqi police. Ukrainian forces fired at the crowd, killing one demonstrator and wounding two others.

az-Zaman reports that the governor of al-Wasit Province, whose HQ is in the southern city of Kut, has resigned with two of his deputies as a result of the unemployment riots that have gripped the city for four days. Ni`mat Sultan Pasha and two aides, Daud Salman and Hussein Ali, submitted their resignations to the Coalition Provisional Authority.

On Tuesday, a crowd of about 1,000 surrounded the governor’s mansion in the city, and some threw sound grenades, breaking the windows. All the government employees fled the building in fear. The sound grenades blew the windows out of several downtown government buildings.

Hamza Hendawi of AP has a great profile of the radical young Shiite clergyman of Kut (pop. 369,000), Abdul Jawad al-Issawi, 22. An already influential figure who supports Muqtada al-Sadr of Kufa, the fiery 30 year old heir to a major Shiite clerical dynasty. Muqtada’s influence is strongest in the Shiite slums of East Baghdad, and in some poor neighborhoods of Basra. He did not initially have that much support among the tribal, recently urbanized populations of the middle to lower Euphrates, such as Kut and Amara. But I have heard a lot of stories by now, similar to the one Hendawi tells, of the Sadrists successfully organizing and recruiting in the smaller cities of the tribal south. The Sadrists want clerical rule and an immediate US withdrawal, and someone like al-Issawi would be more popular in Kut these days, given the unemployment riots, than ever before.

In contrast, according to Pamela Constable of the WP a more mainstream Shiite preacher, Laith Rubaie, intervened Tuesday to draw a big crowd of 1000 protesters to his mosque, discouraging them from throwing grenades at Coalition troops and Iraqi police. He promised to intercede with the authorities about their demands.

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