Protesters in Baghdad defy curfew as death toll in three days of anti-government demonstrations rises to 20.
The death toll in three days of mass anti-government protests in Iraq has risen to 20 with hundreds more injured as the government-imposed curfew in several cities failed to prevent the unrest from spreading in the country’s south.
Braving live fire, tear gas and local curfews, Iraqis angry at high unemployment and entrenched corruption gathered in the streets for a third day in the biggest challenge yet to Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, who will complete one year in office next month.
The embattled prime minister ordered a ban on all movement across the capital starting at 5:00 am (02:00 GMT), but dozens of protesters defied the order and gathered in Baghdad’s emblematic Tahrir (Liberation) Square.
“We slept here so the police don’t take the place,” one demonstrator told AFP before riot police fired into the air in a bid to disperse them at Tahrir Square in central Baghdad.
Travellers to and from Baghdad airport, ambulances, government employees in hospitals, electricity and water departments, and religious pilgrims are exempt from the curfew, the statement said.
Curfews were also imposed in the holy city of Najaf on Wednesday after security forces fired on protesters who are demanding an end to rampant power cuts, water shortages and state corruption.
The southern city of Nasriya, which has seen so far the deadliest protests with a total of eight protesters and one police officer killed, has also been placed under curfew.
Another protester was shot dead on Thursday in the province of Dhi Qar, regional health chief Abdulhussein al-Jaberi said.
In the city of Amarah, medics and security forces have confirmed the killing of four protesters on Thursday, bringing the death toll over the past three days to 20.