Gunmen in cars on Friday opened fire in Baghdad’s Khilani Square, leaving at least 15 people dead and 60 wounded, Iraqi security and medical officials said.
At least two of the dead were policemen.
Protesters ran from the plaza to nearby Tahrir Square and mosques to take cover.
It was not immediately clear who did the shooting.
The attack came as anti-government demonstrators occupied parts of Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahar bridges in a standoff with security forces. The bridges lead to or near the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government.
“We are under live fire now with electric power cut, the wounded and martyrs are here and the bullets were fired in Sinak Bridge,” said one protester, who did not give their name for fear of retaliation.
The attack came a day after a string of suspicious stabbing incidents targeting demonstrators left at least 13 wounded in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Iraq’s leaderless protest movement.
Those attacks by unknown perpetrators occurred as demonstrators supporting political parties and Iran-backed militias withdrew from the square.
The incidents on Thursday fueled paranoia among protesters, who immediately implemented self-security measures to uncover saboteurs within the square.
At least 400 people have died since the uprising began in Iraq on Oct. 1, with thousands of Iraqis taking to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite southern Iraq decrying corruption, poor services, a lack of jobs and calling for an end to the political system that was imposed after the 2003 US invasion.
Security forces dispersed crowds with live fire, tear gas and sonic bombs, leading to fatalities.
Earlier, Iraq’s highest Shiite religious authority called for the formation of a new government within the allotted deadline and without foreign interference as the clock ticks down on lawmakers to select a new leader following the resignation of Adel Abdul-Mahdi as prime minister last week.
Thousands of anti-government protesters from across southern Iraq had joined demonstrators in Tahrir Square hours after the sermon, security officials said.
“We hope the head of the new government and its members are chosen within the constitutional deadline and according to the aspirations of the people and away from outside influence,” Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said in his weekly Friday sermon in Najaf.
The sermon is always delivered by a representative.
The Shiite religious establishment would not take part in the government formation process, he said.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big