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“Blockage of Umm Qasr port has cost Iraq over $6 billion” – PM’s spokesman

PortandTerminal.com, November 6, 2019

BAGHDAD, IRAQ – The blocking of Iraq’s major Umm Qasr port on the Gulf by anti-government protesters has cost the country over $6 billion so far, a spokesman for Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Wednesday.

“The closure of Umm Qasr port harms the country. Hundreds of trucks are still parked. This issue is causing massive damage to the nation. Iraq’s losses have exceeded $6 billion until now,” said Abdul Kareem Khalaf in a news conference.

Trucks are seen at Umm Qasr Port after protesters blocked its entrance, south of Basra, Iraq November 3, 2019. REUTERS/Essam al-Sudani

Iraq’s main seaport Umm Qasr finally reopened on Saturday at 3 AM and all operations have resumed after protesters left the port’s entrance, port employees and government sources in the area said.

All operations had been halted since last Thursday after protesters blocked the port’s entrance.

Umm Qasr, 60 km (40 miles) south of Basra, receives grain, vegetable oil and sugar shipments that feed a country largely dependent on imported food.

What’s going on in Iraq?

Iraqi security forces chase anti-government protesters in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. The protests began with demands for jobs and an end to corruption, and now include calls for justice for those killed in the protests. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Anger has been building in Iraq in recent years due to rising unemployment and rampant corruption. Many people in the country have limited access to basic services such as electricity and clean water.

Despite the country’s oil wealth, many people live in dire poverty with limited access to clean water, electricity, healthcare or education.

According to World Bank figures, Iraq’s youth unemployment is around 25%. It is also ranked the 12th most-corrupt country in the world by several transparency organizations.

Tahrir Square has been the site of massive protests by frustrated and angry Iraqis who are demanding change

Iraqis have congregated in the capital’s Tahrir Square for weeks demanding an overhaul of the political system in the biggest wave of mass protests since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

More than 260 Iraqis have been killed in demonstrations since the start of October

More than 260 Iraqis have been killed in demonstrations since the start of October against a political class they see as corrupt and beholden to foreign interests. In the 24 hours to late Tuesday, security forces shot dead at least 13 protesters.

On Monday, masked gunmen murdered 18 protesters and wounded over 800 others in the Shiite holy city of Karbala. Protesters said they were unsure if the gunmen were special forces, riot police, or militias backed by Iran.

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