Sun, Dec 08, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Live rounds fired in Iraq protests, 15 people killed

AP, BAGHDAD

Protesters wave flags as they march toward Tahrir Square in Baghdad on Friday.

Photo: AP

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.

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