Pompeo condemns 'deplorable' killings of Iraqi protesters

Pompeo condemns 'deplorable' killings of Iraqi protesters
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Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoKobach has lead in Kansas Senate race unless Pompeo enters: report The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial MORE strongly condemned Iraq’s crackdown on anti-government protesters, including kidnappings and civilian deaths in a phone call with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi on Tuesday.

More than 300 Iraqis have been killed and more than 15,000 wounded by Iraqi and Iranian-backed security forces during protests that began last month in Baghdad. The demonstrations have since spread to provinces in the south of the country.

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Iraqis are demonstrating against government corruption, unemployment and lack of basic services and have called for a complete overhaul of the ruling political class.

The United Nations has condemned what it calls human rights violations and abuses at the hands of government and security officials. Pompeo echoed those sentiments on Tuesday.

“The Secretary deplored the death toll among the protesters as a result of the Government of Iraq’s crackdown and use of lethal force, as well as the reports of kidnapped protesters,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said of the secretary’s call with the Iraqi prime minister.

Al-Mahdi has retreated from earlier statements he would resign, instead offering to stay on until elections the following year, further enflaming anger among protesters who are calling for immediate action to address their demands.

“Secretary Pompeo urged Prime Minister Abd al-Mahdi to take immediate steps to address the protesters’ legitimate grievances by enacting reforms and tackling corruption,” Ortagus said, adding that Pompeo stressed that “peaceful public demonstrations are a fundamental element of all democracies.”

The secretary ended the call with a commitment to a “strong, sovereign and prosperous Iraq,” and support of the Iraqi security forces in the fight against ISIS.