News World Iraq death toll soars into triple figures as anti-government protesters battle troops

Iraq death toll soars into triple figures as anti-government protesters battle troops

Protesters carry a wounded comrade to safety amid a hail of bullets in havoc-stricken Baghdad. Photo: AP/Hadi Mizban
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No sooner did was a curfew lifted than Baghdad once again descended into violence and chaos as security forces opened fire on protesters calling for the government to stand down and allow elections

It was the fifth day of wild demonstrations that have left at least 100 dead, most in the smoke-wreathed Iraqi capital where the stench of burning tyres and tear gas fills the air.

Since Tuesday, thousands have taken to the streets of several areas in oil-rich Iraq to protest corruption, lack of jobs and poor services – in particular access to electricity and clean water.

The latest deaths included four people who were killed on Saturday when security forces used live rounds to disperse renewed protests in the capital of Baghdad, witnesses said.

Security forces opened fire at around 200 protesters who gathered at the road linking Falastin Street with Tayeran Square in eastern Baghdad, they added.

The protests, largely led by young people, were renewed at the weekend after a two-day-old curfew in Baghdad was lifted early on Saturday.

The protesters barricaded streets with bonfires, which prompted security forces to descend on the fiery barricades and give chase to fleeing activists, according to witnesses.

Outlined against the flames, two young protesters raise the Iraq flag and call for the government to stand down. Photo: Thomas van Linge/Twitter

Meanwhile, Iraqi broadcaster NRT and Saudi-owned broadcaster Al Arabiya reported that their Baghdad offices were attacked by unknown gunmen late on Saturday.

NRT said that “several” of the channel’s employees were “severely beaten” and that the gunmen broke equipment “knocking the channel off the air at least temporarily.”

The Iraqi broadcaster also reported that the gunmen attacked local police in the area as well as offices of other tv channels including Dijla, al-Hadath and Al-Ghad.

Al Arabiya cited one of their correspondents as saying that “colleagues have been injured during the storming of our office by gunmen.”

Burning anger

The correspondent, who was not named, was also cited as saying that the gunmen “smashed our equipment and mobile phones,” adding that the Saudi-owned broadcaster had received threats in recent days.

Elsewhere, angry protesters torched the offices of political parties in the southern province of Dhi Qar, witnesses said.

Other demonstrators gathered outside the building of the provincial council in Babil in central Iraq, chanting anti-government slogans.

At least 100 people, mainly demonstrators, have been killed in the anti-government rallies across Iraq since Tuesday, the independent High Commission for Human Rights, said.

Ali al-Bayati, a member of the commission, said more than 4,000 other people have been injured in the violent unrest.