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Seven protesters killed during Iraqi anti-government demonstrations

Scores of people have died since a wave of protests began earlier this month.

Iraqi security forces close the bridge leading to the Green Zone (AP)
Iraqi security forces close the bridge leading to the Green Zone (AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

Seven protesters have been killed in clashes with Iraqi security forces during nationwide anti-government protests, officials said.

Security chiefs and medical staff said four people were killed when they were struck by tear gas canisters in Baghdad, where thousands of protesters were trying to reach the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses embassies and government offices.

A second medical official said three protesters were shot dead by security guards when they attacked the office of a provincial official in the southern town of Nasiriyah.

Anti-government protesters escape from a burning building during a demo in Baghdad (AP)

The town in the mainly Shia south has seen especially violent protests in recent weeks and was placed under a 24-hour curfew on Friday.

At least 48 people have been killed since the protests resumed this week, after 149 were killed in a wave of demonstrations earlier this month.

The spontaneous, leaderless protests are directed at the political establishment that came to power after the 2003 US-led invasion, which many blame for spiralling corruption and poor public services.

Anti-government protesters burn police vehicles guarding the provincial council during a demonstration in Basra (AP)

The interior ministry and the military issued statements saying some protesters have exploited the rallies to attack government buildings and political party offices. The protests against the Shia-dominated government have been largely concentrated in Shia-majority areas.

The ministry said some of its members were killed as police battled violent protesters, without providing a casualty total. The military warned that it would take necessary and legal measures to deal with those it called saboteurs.

Iraqi officials said 12 of those killed on Friday died in a fire they had set when they stormed the office of a government-backed militia in the southern town of Diwaniyah. A security official said protesters torched the offices of at least three militias in the southern Maysan province.

In Baghdad, Iraqi police had fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live shots on Friday to break up protesters who gathered in the central Tahrir Square and later tried to cross the bridge leading to the Green Zone.

Iraqi security forces fire tear gas while anti-government protesters try to break into the provincial council building in Basra (AP)

The protesters returned on Saturday, clashing with security forces throughout the day.

The rallies have mainly been by young, unemployed men who are demanding jobs and better services. Young women appeared among the crowd in Baghdad for the first time on Saturday, some handing out water to the protesters.

Some protesters had set up tents in Tahrir Square.

Iran has emerged as a major power broker in Iraq after the 2003 invasion and has close ties to many of its most powerful political parties. Iran also backs a number of state-sanctioned militias that were mobilised in 2014 to battle the Islamic State group.

“Iraq is free. Iran out, out!” some protesters chanted in Tahrir Square.



From Belfast Telegraph