Badghdad: Security forces shot dead 40 anti-government protesters during 24 hours of bloodshed amid spiraling violence in the capital and Iraq’s south, security and medical officials said, one day after an Iranian consulate was torched.
Iran condemned the burning of its consulate in the holy city of Najaf as violence continued into the night across southern Iraq, where security forces had killed 36 protesters and wounded 245 since Wednesday evening, the officials said. Another four protesters were shot dead in the capital.
Police and military forces were deployed across key oil-rich provinces to re-open roads closed off by demonstrations.
The escalating violence and heavy response against demonstrators by a largely Iran-backed government threatened to intensify tensions, especially if efforts to implement electoral and anti-corruption reforms fail to placate protesters.
Crisis committees were created to enhance coordination between Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and governors in provinces affected by the protests “for the importance of controlling security and enforcing the law,” said a statement from the joint operations command.
Security forces shot four protesters dead in Baghdad and wounded 22 when they tried to cross the important Ahrar bridge leading to the nearby Green Zone, the heavily fortified seat of Iraq’s government. Protesters occupy parts of the Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahrar bridges, all of which lead to or near the fortified area.
In Najaf, five protesters were fatally shot and 32 wounded when security forces opened fire to prevent them from torching a central mosque named after the father of a prominent political leader, officials said.
The deaths came a day after protesters burned the Iranian consulate in Najaf. It was one of the worst attacks targeting Iranian interests in the country since the anti-government protests erupted two months ago.
The unrest in Iraq began on Oct. 1, when thousands took to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite south. The largely leaderless movement accuses the government of being hopelessly corrupt and has also decried Iran’s growing influence in Iraqi state affairs.
Iraq PM To resign Iraq’s embattled premier announced Friday he will resign in keeping with the wishes of the country’s top Shiite cleric, after nearly two months of anti-government protests that have cost more than 400 lives.
Adel Abdel Mahdi’s written statement was greeted with cheers and blaring music across Baghdad’s iconic Tahrir (Liberation) Square, where crowds have amassed since early October against a ruling class deemed corrupt and inefficient.Celebrations broke out in Tahrir, where young protesters began dancing....