Iraq’s top Shiite cleric condemns gruesome hanging of teen

Iraq’s top Shiite cleric condemns gruesome hanging of teen

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s top Shiite cleric on Friday denounced the killing of a teenager whose body was strung up by his feet from a traffic pole in a Baghdad square, as conflicting versions emerged about what led to the 16-year-old’s death.

Security officials initially told The Associated Press that he had been beaten to death by an angry mob after he killed four anti-government protesters and two shopkeepers in a shooting spree. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with briefing regulations, provided what they said were the names of four of those killed, saying they ranged in age from 18 to 31.

Spokespersons for the ministries of interior and health said Friday only that the teen had been killed. Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Khaled al-Muhanna said an investigation into the incident was underway.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the nation’s top Shiite cleric, called the teen’s killing a “horrific crime” that must not be repeated and urged Iraqi authorities to hold the perpetrators accountable.

In his weekly sermon, delivered by a representative, al-Sistani also condemned recent killings, kidnappings and assaults on protesters. He added that only the judiciary has the authority to inflict punishment on offenders of the law.

Officials in Iraq often provide conflicting accounts of the same incident, particularly in the context of Iraq’s chaotic anti-government protests.

The eight-week-old protest movement began Oct. 1 when thousands took to the streets to decry government corruption, poor services and scarcity of jobs, has engulfed Iraq.

The demonstrations have been marked by bloodshed and almost daily confrontations, with security forces firing live ammunition and tear gas at demonstrators. More than 450 people have been killed, most of them shot in the head and chest by security forces. More recently, a string of mysterious acts of bloodshed by unknown groups has put anti-government protesters and activists on edge and eroded their faith in the ability of state security forces to protect them.

On Thursday, a mob strung up the body of the 16-year-old in Baghdad’s al-Wathba square as dozens pointed their cellphones at the gruesome scene.

Security officials initially said the teen had been wanted by police on drug-related charges and was running from security forces before opening fire and killing six people. Some videos circulating on social media showed him being beaten and dragged across the street.

However, other videos showed security forces with pointed guns surrounding a house where the teen apparently had taken cover, raising the possibility he may have been killed by police.

The U.N. Security Council issued a statement Friday stressing the right to peaceful assembly and calling on Iraqi authorities to promptly conduct transparent investigations into violence against demonstrators.

The U.N.’s most powerful body expressed “grave concern at the loss of life of those demonstrating and at the killing, maiming and arbitrary arrests of unarmed demonstrators.” The council also expressed concern at the killing of security forces and “the involvement of armed groups in extrajudicial killings and kidnappings.”

Al-Sistani’s opinions hold sway over many Iraqis, and he has largely sided with anti-government protesters by calling on political parties to implement serious reforms and withdrawing support for the government of Adel Abdul-Mahdi, which led to his resignation last month.

Protesters were quick to distance themselves from Thursday’s violence in a collective statement in which they condemned the incident and said those who carried it out were not part of their movement.

Last Friday, 25 protesters were killed when gunmen in pickup trucks opened fire in Baghdad’s Khilani Square. That same week, mysterious knife attacks targeted over a dozen anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square, the hub of the protest movement.

Referring to the incident in Khilani, al-Sistani said the attack as well as targeted assassinations and kidnappings in recent days reinforced previous calls by the Shiite religious establishment that “all weapons must be in the hands of the state,” he said.

The leaderless uprising engulfed Baghdad and the predominately Shiite southern provinces on Oct 1, when thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to decry rampant government corruption, poor services and scarcity of jobs

Samya Kullab And Murtada Faraj, The Associated Press

Iraq

Just Posted

Red Deer musician Curtis Phagoo is glad the Alberta government is investing $2 million to help the province’s live music industry, but he would have liked the criteria to be expanded, so the money could be used as relief to cover revenue shortfalls. (Contributed photo by Cory Michaud.)
Red Deer musicians welcome $2-M in grants to help live music, but would have preferred a relief program

The money is for future projects and can’t be used for retroactive expenses

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
Alberta’s health care system under ‘significant stress,’ says AHS president

The province’s health care system is currently under more stress than at… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon Wheat Kings, the team announced Monday. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer Rebels acquire goaltender Connor Ungar, forward Liam Keeler in separate trades

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon… Continue reading

(Advocate file photo)
Man charged following police chases last summer is sentenced

Alexander Michael Talbot sentenced to 22 months in prison

COVID-19 test kit. (Black Press Media file photo)
Red Deer businesses can order COVID testing kits from the Chamber

Kits are being provided through a partnership with the Alberta government

Mayor Rick Bonnett. (Screenshot)
WATCH: Ponoka council calls on gov’t to support rural small businesses

Ponoka council is calling on the provincial government to increase funding to… Continue reading

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals silent on nature of Fortin probe or who will replace him on vaccine campaign

OTTAWA — The Liberal government is scrambling to reassure Canadians that the… Continue reading

A woman attends a vigil in front of the hospital where Joyce Echaquan died in Joliette, Que., on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Hospital staff testify today at Quebec coroner’s inquiry into death of Joyce Echaquan

TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Que. — Medical staff from a Quebec hospital where Joyce Echaquan… Continue reading

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on February 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Ottawa looking for 2,000 new energy auditors to get home retrofit program going

OTTAWA — The federal government is looking to train 2,000 more people… Continue reading

A person waits outside a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Sunday, May 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Ontario opens shots to 18+, Quebec opens drive-thru, as COVID vaccine efforts expand

Quebec is opening a drive-thru vaccine clinic at its busiest airport and… Continue reading

Calgary Flames players celebrate the team's overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks during an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, May 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Lindholm OT winner gives Flames 6-5 win over Canucks despite blowing four-goal lead

VANCOUVER — In a game with little to play for besides pride,… Continue reading

In this photo taken on May 13, 2021, Russia's performer, Manizha, smiles during an interview after rehearsing at the Eurovision Song Contest at Ahoy arena in Rotterdam, Netherlands. For many, the stage and global television audience of millions is a chance to express messages of inclusion, strength and positivity. Manizha has a message of strength for women in her song whose lyrics include the lines: "Every Russian Woman. Needs to know. You're strong enough to bounce against the wall." (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Eurovision Song Contest returns despite coronavirus pandemic

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Pounding beats? Check. Uplifting lyrics? Check. Huge, backlit… Continue reading

Serena Williams of the United States returns the ball to Italy's Lisa Pigato during their match at the Emilia Romagna Open tennis tournament, in Parma, Monday, May 17, 2021. Serena Williams earned her first victory in more than three months by beating 17-year-old qualifier Lisa Pigato 6-3, 6-2 in the first round of the Emilia-Romagna Open. Williams accepted a wild-card invitation for the Parma tournament after losing her opening match at the Italian Open last week. (AP Photo/Marco Vasini)
Serena Williams posts 1st victory in more than 3 months

PARMA, Italy (AP) — Serena Williams earned her first victory in more… Continue reading

In this Oct. 21, 2014 file photo, people pass an AT&T store in New York's Times Square. AT&T will combine its media operations that include CNN HBO, TNT and TBS in a $43 billion deal with Discovery, the owner of lifestyle networks including the Food Network and HGTV. The deal announced Monday, May 17, 2021, would create a separate media company as households increasingly abandon cable and satellite TV, looking instead at Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
AT&T, Discovery join media brands as cord-cutting encroaches

NEW YORK (AP) — AT&T will combine its massive media operations that… Continue reading

Most Read