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Three protesters killed as Iraqi PM submits resignation

Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s decision came in the face of weeks of deadly anti-government demonstrations in Baghdad and elsewhere.

Security forces try to disperse anti-government protesters during clashes in Baghdad, Iraq (Hadi Mizban/AP)
Security forces try to disperse anti-government protesters during clashes in Baghdad, Iraq (Hadi Mizban/AP)

By Samya Kullab and Murtada Faraj, Associated Press

Three anti-government protesters have been shot dead and at least 58 others injured in continued unrest in Baghdad and southern Iraq even as Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi formally submitted his resignation.

Iraq’s parliament will either vote on or accept outright Mr Abdul-Mahdi’s resignation letter in a sitting on Sunday.

The prime minister announced on Thursday that he would hand parliament his resignation on Friday amid mounting pressure from mass anti-government protests, a day after more than 40 demonstrators were killed by security forces in Baghdad and southern Iraq.

The announcement also came after Iraq’s top Shia cleric withdrew his support for the government in a weekly sermon.

Security forces chase protesters during clashes in Baghdad (Hadi Mizban/AP)

The formal resignation came after an emergency cabinet session earlier on Saturday in which ministers approved the document and the resignation of key staff, including Mr Abdul-Mahdi’s chief of staff.

In a pre-recorded speech, Mr Abdul-Mahdi addressed Iraqis, saying that his cabinet would be demoted to caretaker status, unable to pass new laws and make key decisions.

He listed his government’s accomplishments, saying it had come to power during difficult times. “Not many people were optimistic that this government would move forward,” he said.

He said the government had managed to push through important job-creating projects and improve electricity generation.

“But unfortunately, these events took place,” he said, referring to the mass protest movement that engulfed Iraq on October 1. “We need to be fair to our people and listen to them.”

At least 400 people have died since the leaderless uprising shook Iraq, with thousands of people taking to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shia southern Iraq decrying corruption, poor services, lack of jobs and calling for an end to the post-2003 political system.

Security forces have used live fire, tear gas and sound bombs to disperse crowds, leading to the heavy casualties.

Three protesters were killed and 24 injured in the holy city of Najaf in southern Iraq on Saturday as security forces used live rounds to disperse them from a mosque.

A masked police officer uses a slingshot to fire a stone towards demonstrators in Baghdad (Hadi Mizban/AP)

In Baghdad, at least 11 protesters were injured near the strategic Ahrar Bridge when security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas to prevent demonstrators from removing barricades.

The protesters are occupying part of three strategic bridges – Ahrar, Sinak and Jumhuriya – in a stand-off with security forces. All three lead to the heavily-fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government.

In the southern city of Nasiriyah, security forces used live fire and tear gas to repel protesters on two main bridges, the Zaitoun and the Nasr, which lead to the city centre. Heavy fighting has taken place in Nasiriyah in recent days, with at least 31 protesters killed.

Mr Abdul-Mahdi referred to the rising death toll by security forces in his speech.

“We did our best to stop the bloodshed, and at the time we made brave decisions to stop using live ammunition, but unfortunately when clashes happen there will be consequences,” he said.



From Belfast Telegraph