Iraq: Death toll climbs to 100 as protests spread

5th Oct 2019
Iraq: Death toll climbs to 100 as protests spread

By Arif Yusuf and Hamdi Yıldız

 

BAGHDAD (AA): At least 100 people have been killed since anti-government protests erupted across Iraq earlier this week, according to the country’s health ministry.

More than 2,500 people have also been injured since the protests began on Oct. 1 in Baghdad and the country’s southern provinces, said an official from the ministry who declined to be named.

Members of the security forces were among the dead, the official said, without providing an exact figure.

The death toll may rise further as there are protesters who are seriously injured and people are reluctant to transport them to the hospital as they fear being arrested, the official said.

There are also shortages of medical supplies and units of blood, according to hospital sources.

Earlier Friday, angry protesters stormed the provincial council in Shia-dominated Al-Diwaniyah in southern Iraq, according to a police officer.

“Hundreds of demonstrators stormed the provincial council’s building after violent clashes with security forces,” Police Lieutenant Jassim al-Tamimi told Anadolu Agency.

Dozens of demonstrators were wounded by gunfire and police were injured by stones in the clashes.

Protesters have been demanding that Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi resign as well as improvements in living conditions and an end to corruption.

Security forces have reportedly opened fire on protesters to disperse them, causing mass casualties.

The prime minister ordered a government-enforced curfew to be lifted in Baghdad and some other southern cities as of 5 a.m. local time (0200 GMT) Saturday, state media reported.

In a written statement, former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for early elections, demanding that Mahdi resign.

Prominent Spiritual leader, Ayatullah Ali al-Sistani, on Friday warned against “serious” consequences of using violence in the ongoing demonstrations in Iraq.

“There have been unacceptable and condemned attacks on demonstrators, policemen and properties in Baghdad along with a number of provinces,” al-Sistani said in a statement.

“In different areas, the demonstrations have led to riots and bloody clashes that left dozens of victims and wounded,” he added.

Sistani warned of the “serious repercussions of the use of violence and counter-violence,” calling for “avoiding it in all cases”.

He called on several Iraqi authorities to take clear anti-corruption measures and clear steps for reform.

Iraqi scholar Muqtada al-Sadr called Friday on the political bloc he leads, Sairoon, to suspend its activities in the parliament until the government responds to demands of protesters, said a statement on Friday.

“Hurry to suspend your membership without delay,” he said in a statement addressing the bloc which holds the majority of the parliament.

Al-Sadr asked the lawmakers of the bloc not to attend any parliamentary sessions until the government issues a reform program the people would accept.

Sairoon block secured majority in the parliament with 54 seats out of 329 in the country’s parliamentary polls held in 2018.

[Photo: People gather to protest against government on corruption, unemployment and inadequate public service in front of the governor´s office in Kirkuk, Iraq on October 02, 2019.  Photographer:  Ali Mukarrem Garip/AA]

 

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