Iraqi security forces have fired tear gas and live rounds during clashes with anti-government protesters, killing three and wounding dozens of demonstrators, officials said.
Separately, three rockets landed in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government and home to several foreign embassies, but caused no injuries or damage, two security officials said.
The clashes prompted authorities to close key streets and thoroughfares leading to the Iraqi capital’s centre.
The violence was the latest since protests in Iraq reignited last week after a brief lull amid soaring tensions between Washington and Tehran following a US drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad earlier this month.
The rockets landed close to the US embassy in the Green Zone, and are the latest in several similar attacks.
As in the other incidents, the perpetrators were not immediately known but the strike comes during a sensitive time as the US and Iran step back from taking further escalating action on Iraqi soil. Two rockets fell in the Green Zone on January 8.
In Baghdad, tear gas and live rounds were fired near Sinak Bridge and Tayaran Square, which have been the scene of violence in recent days, medical and security officials said.
A gunshot wound killed one protester while a second died after being hit in the head by a tear gas canister, medical officials said. A third later died of his injuries, the officials said.
A statement from Baghdad Operations Command said 14 officers were wounded by a group of rock-throwing “inciters of violence” while trying to secure the entrance to Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the protest movement.
Among the dead was Yousif Sattar, 21, a local journalist covering the protest movement, one medical official and an activist said.
“Despite these actions our forces continued to exercise restraint and follow up on the security duties assigned to them,” said the statement.
A security official said at least nine arrests have been made after the National Security Council authorised security forces to arrest demonstrators blocking main thoroughfares and roundabouts.
In the southern city of Nasiriyah, protesters blocked the highway linking the city to the southern oil-rich province of Basra. At least six protesters were wounded when an unknown gunmen fired at them from a speeding car, a medical official said.