BAGHDAD, July 23 (Xinhua) -- Unidentified gunmen Monday shot dead a lawyer defending detained demonstrators who were protesting lack of jobs and deterioration of basic services in Iraq's southern city of Basra, a security source said.
Gunmen in four-wheel drive vehicle intercepted the car of the lawyer Jabbar Karam al-Bahadli in downtown Basra and riddled him with bullets before they fled the scene, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The security forces launched an investigation into the incident to find out the real motive behind the assassination as he is one of a group of lawyers stand to defend protestors accused of committing acts of violence and breach of security during anti-government demonstrations recently, the source said.
Ahlam al-Lami, head of the Iraqi Lawyers Syndicate, condemned Bahadli's assassination and pledged to take immediate measures until bringing the murderers to justice.
A statement by syndicate said that al-Lami called Ministry of Interior and other security authorities to "protect the citizens and clear the cities from domination of armed groups, as the arms must be in the hand of the state exclusively."
The protests continued in Basra as well as several Iraqi cities for almost two weeks despite a series of measures taken by the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi aimed at quelling the street anger.
The measures included allocating 3.5 trillion Iraqi dinars (about 2.9 billion U.S. dollars) to carry out several major projects for public services, such as electricity and water facilities, in addition to providing thousands of jobs in the government institutions.
Meanwhile, Abadi, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Iraqi forces, issued an order of high alert for the security forces in the central and southern provinces in response to the protests.
The demonstrators accused the influential political parties of being behind the wide-spread corruption that led to high rates of unemployment and failure in rehabilitation of the country's electricity, water and other basic services.