Published: Sat, November 09, 2019

Several protesters killed as demonstrations rage across Iraq

Several protesters killed as demonstrations rage across Iraq

In Baghdad on Friday, Iraqi state television said explosives experts found a bomb under one of the city's bridges and carried out a controlled explosion.

The violence has left almost 280 dead, with security forces resuming their use of live rounds on Monday after almost two weeks of using volleys of tear gas, but no firearms, to push back protesters.

For days, they have faced off against security forces on the Al Jumhuriyah Bridge, which links them to the Green Zone where government offices and embassies are based.

Throughout the night, loud blasts had echoed from around Tahrir as security forces tried to hold off protesters attempting to cross four bridges over the Tigris.

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks in the capital and across the Shia south to demand sweeping political change. In his Friday sermon, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said it is the responsibility of the security forces to maintain the peacefulness of the protests and avoid using excessive force in dealing with the demonstrators.

A crackdown by authorities against mostly unarmed protesters has killed more than 260 people since demonstrations began on October 1 over lack of jobs, chronic power and clean water shortages, poor education and healthcare and corruption. The shooting also wounded about 120, said medical officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Gunfire was used against demonstrators staging a days-long sit-in in Basra, the center of the country's oil industry.

The southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr was shut down, reopened, and then shut down again on Thursday by protesters who blocked the roads with barricades and burning tires. More than 250 people have been killed since October 1. It said the blockages had cost Iraq $6 billion U.S. and vowed to arrest those responsible.

"Since the protests began, senior government officials have forbidden medical staff from sharing information on the dead and injured with any sources outside the Health Ministry", the organization said.

In response to the protests, the government has promised reforms and new elections.

Stipends for the poor, more job opportunities for graduates and pledges to punish a handful of corrupt officials have come too late for those demanding an overhaul of state institutions, a flawed electoral process and system of governance that has fueled endemic corruption, many Iraqis say.

The Iraqi government has failed to find a way out of the biggest and most complicated challenge it has faced in years.

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