RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Author)
At least 63 protesters have been killed in clashes with security forces across Iraq during two days of demonstrations against corruption and economic hardships, a rights watchdog said on October 26.
The Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights said in a report that 2,592 people -- a figure that includes security forces -- have also been wounded in the violence.
Six protesters were killed in Baghdad and the southern city of Nasiriyah on October 26, said Ali al-Bayati, a member of the commission.
Hundreds of demonstrators tried to breach roadblocks set up by security forces near the Jumariyah Bridge in central Baghdad, the report said.
"The demonstrators attempted to go to the Green Zone but were held back by the tear gas that the security forces fired," a witness said.
The Green Zone is home to government offices and foreign embassies in Baghdad.
Demonstrators, meanwhile, set up tents while staging a sit-in in central Baghdad's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the protests.
The anti-government protests erupted again on October 25 after leaderless, spontaneous demonstrations were put down by authorities who already used lethal violence earlier this month.
Nearly 200 people have been killed since the start of demonstrations against corruption, unemployment, and the lack of basic public services in early October.
Iraq’s military has admitted that it used "excessive force" against demonstrators and said it had "begun to hold accountable those commanding officers who carried out these wrong acts."
The wave of protests -- the deadliest unrest since the Islamic State (IS) extremist group was declared defeated in Iraq in 2017 -- is seen as the first major challenge to Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi's government, which came to power nearly a year ago.
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