Iraq officials: 4 protesters killed, 100 wounded


Protesters in Hillah and Kut continued demonstrating, with government offices and schools still shuttered.

A total of 23 protesters and security forces members have been killed and more than 1,077 injured amid ongoing demonstrations in Baghdad and southern provinces of Iraq from November 3 to 7, the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights said Friday, Trendreports citingXinhua.

The clash comes after the government promising reforms aimed at ending the crisis.

Overnight, security forces began clearing out protest camps in Baghdad, the port city of Basra and the holy city of Karbala.

Many Iraqis blame the current political parties in power for their economic hardship and the scale of the protests, believed to be the biggest since the fall of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003, took the government by surprise. The country had enjoyed rare calm after the jihadist group's defeat in 2017.

The government crackdown did help to reduce the numbers of protesters over the weekend, but authorities have been unable to fully quell the unrest among mostly unemployed youth, who have been taking to the streets to object to the country's political class.

The higher death toll includes two people who were killed Friday in the southern city of Basra during violent protests, the IHCR said.

"Even if it comes down to the last man, we have to enter the Green Zone and bring it down", another protester shouted.

But demonstrators fear the next target will be Tahrir Square and Jumhuriya Bridge.

Iraqi forces then moved towards Tahrir (Liberation) Square, ground zero for the month-long movement demanding regime change, firing live rounds and tear gas.

'Police have re-taken nearly the entire area up ahead of us.

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Protesters appeared to be regrouping to try forcing their way again across the bridge, which has seen daily clashes with security forces.

A volunteer medic, Azhar Qassem, said doctors would stay to treat any wounded.

'Many get hit by shrapnel from sound bombs and others choke on tear gas or are hit directly by gas canisters. "People have died that way", she said as live gunfire rang out and ambulance sirens wailed.

The protesters were pushed from the Sinak bridge to the nearby Khilani square, where 35 people were wounded, according to medical officials. "However, continuing protests must allow for a return to normal life, which will lead to legitimate demands being met", he said in a statement.

Al-Sistani's office said the government should respond to protesters' demands, adding that the cleric's name was being used for "political exploitation".

Though Sistani rarely takes direct political positions, on those rare occasions he does his word is considered law, and with a number of Iraq's Shi'ite factions already questioning the government's policy, this further solidifies that changes have to happen. "They must avoid using excessive force with peaceful protesters".

In southern Iraq, operations resumed at Umm Qasr commodities port, a port official said, after it was closed for almost 10 days while protesters blocked its entrances.

Umm Qasr receives imports of grain, vegetable oils and sugar shipments that feed a country largely dependent on imported food.

Iraqi anti-government protesters clashed with security forces on Sunday, leaving three dead and dozens wounded as a rights group warned a deadly crackdown could spiral into a "bloodbath".

The Kuwaiti consulate in Basra said it was withdrawing its staff from the city, amid the deteriorating security situation, a consular official said.