Iraqi security forces have fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse crowds of protesters, killing two people, in a third day of fierce clashes in central Baghdad, officials said.
Two protesters were struck with rubber bullets and died instantly and over 20 others were wounded in the fighting on Rasheed Street, a famous avenue known for its old crumbling architecture and now littered with rubble from days of violence.
Sixteen people have died and more than 100 have been wounded in the renewed clashes.
At least 342 protesters have died in Iraq’s massive protests, which started on October 1 when thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to condemn corruption and lack of services despite Iraq’s oil wealth.
Separately, Iraq’s parliament failed to hold a session on Saturday due to lack of a quorum. Legislators were supposed to read reform bills introduced to placate protesters. The next session was postponed to Monday.
The fighting has centred on Rasheed Street and started on Thursday when protesters tried to dismantle a security barricade on the street, which leads to Ahrar Bridge, a span over the Tigris River that has been a repeated flashpoint. Security forces responded with barrages of tear gas and live ammunition.
The violence took off again on Friday afternoon. Live rounds and tear gas canisters were fired by security forces from behind a concrete barrier on Rasheed Street.
Protesters have occupied part of three bridges — Ahrar, Jumhuriya and Sinak — in a stand-off with security forces. The bridges lead to the fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government.