BAGHDAD: Iraqi security forces fired tear gas and live bullets in clashes yesterday with protesters angered by high-level corruption who resisted with stones and petrol bombs, witnesses and security sources said.
One protester was killed in Baghdad, police sources said, and more than 100 demonstrators were hurt in the violence in the capital and several other cities after the security forces tried to clear sit-in protest camps, medical sources said.
Other medical sources said 75 of those hurt were in the southern city of Nassariyah, where a witness said protesters set fire to two security vehicles and hundreds of other demonstrators controlled key bridges in the city.
The protesters are demanding the removal of what they consider a corrupt ruling elite and an end to foreign interference in Iraqi politics, especially by Iran, which dominates state institutions.
Unrest resumed last week, after a lull of several weeks, following the US killing of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani and an Iraqi paramilitary chief in Baghdad this month.
The killing, to which Iran responded with ballistic missile attacks on two Iraqi military bases, has revived tensions in Iraqi politics and delayed the formation of a new government.
In Baghdad, protesters were coughing and washing their faces and eyes to rid themselves of the effects of the gas while medical workers provided first aid, as the site was inaccessible to ambulances, a reporter said.
Tuk tuks evacuated wounded protesters in clouds of tear gas and black smoke from burning tyres.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of university students had gathered in Tahrir Square, the main protest camp.
In the southern city of Basra, more than 2,000 students arrived at a protest camp, another witness said.
Protests also continued in the cities of Karbala, Najaf and Diwaniya, defying attempts by security forces to end their months-long sit-in, police sources and witnesses said.
In other violence, five Katyusha rockets landed last night in Baghdad’s Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign embassies, a military statement said.
There were no immediate reports of casualties but sources said the rockets landed near the US embassy.
Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi condemned the attack, a statement from his office said, and said that the continuation of such acts could “drag Iraq into becoming a battlefield.”