Iraqi security forces killed at least five people when they opened fire on protesters in Baghdad where thousands took part in the largest wave of anti-government protests for decades. Demonstrations also took place in several other locations, including the main Gulf port Umm Qasr and southern Shatra, where security forces also killed a protester.
In Baghdad, one man shot dead, his body carried away by fellow protesters, when security forces opened fire with live rounds on demonstrators near the Ahrar Bridge. Four others were also killed.
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Security and medical sources put the toll at four killed and 34 wounded, but could only confirm that one death was from live fire. Two were a result of rubber bullets and tear gas, giving no reason for the fourth death. The sources also said two people were killed, including a police officer, when special forces tasked with protecting the heavily fortified Green Zone opened live fire on protesters. At least 22 people were wounded.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said a group of protesters had crossed the bridge and set fire to a restaurant, and that law enforcement “dealt” with them. He did not elaborate.
Separately, at least one protester was killed and 10 wounded after police used live fire and tear gas against them in the town of Shatra, 45 km (28 miles) north of the southern city of Nassiriya, security and medical sources said.
Monday’s deaths were in addition to three protesters killed late on Sunday when security forces opened fire on a crowd trying to storm the Iranian consulate in the Shi’ite Muslim holy city of Kerbala, security and medical sources said.
Thousands of anti-government protesters had gathered in central Baghdad on Monday, defying a plea by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to stand down.
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Since putting down an insurgency by Islamic State in 2017, Iraq has enjoyed two years of comparative stability. But despite its oil wealth, many people live in poverty with limited access to clean water, electricity, healthcare or education.
The protesters blame a political system that shares power among sectarian parties, making corruption entrenched.
“The youth have lived through economic hardships, explosions, oppression. We want to root out this political elite completely,” said a protester who had camped overnight in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. He asked that he not be identified.