3 demonstrators killed as anti-gov’t protests escalate in Iraq

Three demonstrators were killed and dozens of protesters and security members were wounded in Baghdad and other cities on Monday, as anti-government protests flared over corruption, lack of jobs and public services, an Interior Ministry official said.

“The latest reports about casualties in Baghdad during the day showed that three demonstrators, including the civil society activist Yousif Sattar, were killed and up to 54 demonstrators were wounded and suffocated,” the official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

Most of the casualties occurred when the security forces tried to prevent the demonstrators from blocking the highway of Mohammed al-Qassim, that links the downtown of the capital to several neighborhoods in the east of the capital, the official said.

The clashes between the protesters and the riot police continued in the evening in the highway and the nearby al-Gailani Square in downtown Baghdad, the official added.

A statement by Baghdad Operations Command said that 14 of the security members were wounded when protesters damaged the sidewalks of the streets near the highway and threw the stones on the security forces at an intersection in downtown Baghdad.

The demonstrations also continued in the provinces of Babil, Najaf, Karbala, Dhi Qar, Diwaniyah, Wasit, Maysan and Basra, as protesters blocked the main roads and closed many of the government institutions, according to local media reports.

The latest escalation in anti-government protests started on Sunday night when hundreds of angry Iraqi youths intensified their protests due to the slow pace of comprehensive reform in the political process demanded by the demonstrators.

The latest violent protests came after the end of a week deadline put previously by the demonstrators for the political blocs to come up with a new government.

On Jan. 13, demonstrators in Nasriyah, the capital of Dhi Qar province, and other Iraqi cities announced a period of one week for the political blocs to form a new government to replace the government of caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, otherwise the protesters would totally block main roads across Iraq and close the government institutions.

Mass anti-government demonstrations have continued in Baghdad and other cities in central and southern Iraq since early October, demanding comprehensive reform, fight against corruption, better public services and more jobs.