Anti-govt protests continue in Iraq as death toll rises to 63

Hundreds of demonstrators continued their protests Saturday in Baghdad and some provinces in southern and central Iraq over deteriorated living conditions, leaving up to 63 people died and more than 2,500 others wounded.

Following Friday’s protests in Tahrir Square in downtown Baghdad on the eastern side of the Tigris River, dozens of the demonstrators spent their night in sit-in tents to resume the protests on Saturday morning and repeated their attempts to cross the nearby al-Jumhouriyah Bridge to reach the Green Zone, but were prevented by the concrete blocks and riot police.

The last attempt to cross the bridge was around the sunset, when the riot police heavily fired tear gas canisters and sound bombs to disperse the demonstrators and managed to push them back out of Tahrir Square in the surrounding neighborhoods, an Interior Ministry source told Xinhua.

Afterwards, the riot police dismantled the sit-in tents after clashes with the protesters, the source said.

The protests also continued in other cities in several southern and central provinces, including Dhi Qar, Maysan, Diwaniya, Basra and some other provinces, where protesters called for reform, accountability for corrupt people and job opportunities.

The Iraqi Independent High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) said in the latest statement that up to 63 people killed in two days of anti-government protests in Baghdad and other provinces, while 2,592 others wounded, mainly in Baghdad where 1,794 people were wounded.

The IHCHR said that 83 government buildings and parties’ headquarters were burned or damaged in the provinces of Diwaniyah, Maysan, Wasit, Dhi Qar, Basra, Muthanna, Babil and Karbala.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi parliament failed in the afternoon to convene for an emergency session to discuss the ongoing turmoil for lack of quorum, as only some 90 lawmakers were present out of 329.

Also in the day, the Interior Ministry said in a statement that security force “secured the demonstrations sites with responsibility and high restraint by not using weapons or excessive force towards the demonstrators at all.”  

The statement “strongly condemned the arson of public institutions, headquarters and citizens’ homes,” and confirmed that the law considers the attackers as criminals, who must severely be punished and have nothing to do with peaceful demonstrations. -Xinhua

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