By Ali Jawad
BAGHDAD (AA) – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Thursday dismissed Lieutenant-General Jamil al-Shammari, an army commander in Basra, against the backdrop of ongoing violent protests in the country’s south.
The move came only hours before parliament was scheduled to vote on whether or not to dismiss the commander.
“The prime minister ordered that Basra Operations Commander al-Shammari be demoted to the post of rector of Iraq’s Defense University for Military Studies," al-Abadi's office said in a statement.
Al-Shammari has come in for criticism since 18 demonstrators were killed in Basra earlier this month during violent protests.
Protesters say the 18 were shot dead by security forces, while the authorities have blamed "criminals seeking to destroy public and private property”.
On Wednesday, Iraqi MPs called for the dismissal of three ministers in al-Abadi's government, as well as that of al-Shammari.
Since July 9, Iraq’s Shia-majority southern and central provinces — especially Basra — have been rocked by popular protests which at one point spread to capital Baghdad.
Demonstrators demand improved public utilities, especially water and electricity; more employment opportunities; and an end to alleged government corruption.