By Ibrahim Saleh
BAGHDAD (AA) – Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi on Monday named a new military commander in the southern province of Basra, which has been the scene of popular protests over poor public utilities and high unemployment.
A military commander said lieutenant-general Qasem al-Maliki was appointed a commander of Basra operations.
The move came days after al-Abadi — who is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces – sacked Basra military commander Jamil al-Shimari after the death of dozens of protesters in violent demonstrations in the province.
On Friday, the U.S. said it will close its consulate in Basra, citing mounting threats from Iranian-backed militias.
In September, protesters set fire to Iran’s consulate in Basra and rockets were fired towards Basra International Airport, which houses the U.S. consulate.
Since July 9, Iraq’s Shia-majority central and southern provinces — especially Basra — have been rocked by protests to demand better public services, more job opportunities and an end to government corruption.