Mounting toll in Iraq protests as internet cut again


Though these tactics also caused fatalities, the protests grew far larger as word got out that they were safer, with families, women, and elderly people joining demonstrations by "revolutionary" youth, especially in Baghdad.

Adel Abdel Mahdi, 77, came to power previous year as the product of a tenuous alliance between populist cleric Moqtada Sadr and pro-Iran paramilitary chief Hadi al-Ameri, with the required blessing of Iraq's Shiite religious leadership. The protesters, who mainly come from the Shiite majority, say their leaders have enriched themselves while letting the economy and public services deteriorate.

Anti-government protesters in Iraq stormed a fourth bridge Wednesday in central Baghdad, where security forces pushed them back with batons and tear gas, wounding dozens, and a medic was killed near another bridge while aiding demonstrators.

Activists also hurled stones at security forces firing tear gas grenades in clashes on the capital's streets leading to the Iranian embassy, the seat of government and the foreign and justice ministries, an AFP photographer reported.

On Sunday night, Iraqi security forces shot and killed three protesters and wounded 19 in dispersing a violent demonstration outside the Iranian consulate in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, police officials said.

Iraqi demonstrators block the road during ongoing anti-government protests, in Baghdad, Iraq.

Iraq has close but complicated ties with Iran. In a meeting with the heads of trade unions on Sunday, Salih said the new election law would be submitted to parliament this week.

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The protesters blame a political system that shares power among sectarian parties, making corruption entrenched. More than 250 people have been killed.

He met with senior judicial and security officials at the Federal Police Headquarters late Monday to discuss how to restore stability while preserving the right to protest and to protect private property, a government statement said.

"Now is the time for life to go back to normal", Abdel Mahdi, 77, said in a statement, insisting that numerous protesters' demands "have already been satisfied". But they have also cast aspersions on the protesters, alleging that the US and other Western powers are manipulating them to try to drag the country back into civil war. Iran urged its citizens not to travel to Iraq; Bahrain issued a similar warning.

"Why are they killing their own countrymen for another country?" That could provoke a similar backlash against the USA, which still has thousands of troops in Iraq and is also widely seen as having meddled in the country's affairs.

Iraq has held regular elections since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein following the USA -led invasion of 2003, but they have been dominated by Shiite Islamist parties that have failed to deliver on promises to improve daily life.

Political leaders in Iraq and Lebanon have yet to offer concrete proposals to meet protesters' demands. "Iraqi blood is being spilled because of this rotten government". Soleimani traveled to Najaf over the weekend to meet with top Shiite clerics, according to three Shiite political officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the talks.

There are already signs of frustration. They said a medic was killed near the Al-Ahrar Bridge, which has seen heavy clashes in recent days, and another was wounded.