Protesters block Iraqi president's car over ferry sinking

Protesters block Iraqi president's car over ferry sinking
Mosul's residents surround the Iraqi President's convoy, protesting in anger over the hundred who died when a ferry capsized in the Tigris river.
2 min read
22 March, 2019
Iraqi police outside a mosque as Muslims pray for the victims of the Mosul ferry[AFP/Getty]

Residents of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, angry over the sinking of a ferry in the Tigris River that killed at least 95 people, blocked a road where Iraq's presidential convoy was passing on Friday.

Angry protestors chanted "no to corruption" and pelted the provincial governor's car with stones in protest.

The visit to Mosul by President Barham Saleh came as search teams were still trying to find more bodies after the ferry capsized near the city on Thursday.

The ferry was overloaded with holidaymakers, mostly families and children, celebrating both Nowruz, the Persian New Year, and Mother's Day. The death toll on Friday rose to 95.

A Mosul resident described the governor of Mosul driving over protestors on Twitter. "Al-Mawsiliyya cameraman was injured. Ambulance rushed to the place to take the injured," Ali Y. Al-Baroodi wrote.

The protesters did not harm Saleh but shortly afterward, pelted the SUV of the governor of Nineveh province, Nofal al-Akoub, with bottles and stones, demanding that he be sacked from the post.

Videos show Saleh speaking from his car window with the protesters, many of whom were young men. Saleh had rushed to Mosul where he held meetings with security officials over the sinking of the ferry. 

Another video shows protesters pelting the governor's SUV and breaking the windshield before the vehicle speeds away.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi ordered an investigation and briefly visited Mosul, where he declared three days of national mourning.

Mosul's Civil Defence Authority Husam Khalil said that the boat was over capacity when it capsized - carrying 250 people when it should have normally been carrying only 50.

Iraqi judicial authorities ordered the arrest of nine workers operating the ferry. The men were detained and an arrest warrant is out for the owner of the tourist island where it was headed.

The sinking of the ferry was a tragic blow to Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city that is still struggling to overcome the devastation wreaked by the Islamic State group.

The ferry disaster took place in the first Nowruz celebrations allowed in the area for years, since the defeat of IS.

IS had captured Mosul it in the summer of 2014, making the city its main stronghold in Iraq. After US-backed Iraqi forces retook Mosul three years later, in July 2017, much of the city was left in ruins.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab