More Iraqi protesters dead as crackdown intensifies, Sadr withdraws support
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi security forces torched make-shift tents of protesters in Baghdad and other southern cities on Saturday, firing live rounds and tear gas canisters that reportedly killed at least seven demonstrators and injured dozens more, sources said the following day.
Security and medical sources told Kurdistan 24 that four protesters were killed by gunfire in Baghdad and three in the southern city of Nasiriyah. Multiple additional participants were wounded while preventing riot police from raiding their camps.
Iraqi security forces have killed upwards of 600 protesters since they first took to the streets in early October to demand a better standard of living and an end to institutional corruption, according to an Amnesty International report. Tens of thousands of others have been reported wounded by multiple sources. Iranian-backed militias have been accused of carrying out part of the violence, targeting demonstrators and activists with sniper rifles and carrying out targeted assassinations.
The new attacks came as part of a campaign to disperse protesters who had shut down some essential streets after self-styled nationalist and influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr withdrew his support from the protests after apparent warming of ties between him and rival Tehran-aligned militias.
After Sadr’s proclamation, security forces began removing concrete barriers surrounding central Baghdad's Tahrir Square—the epicenter of the protests since they began—in an apparent move to quash the demonstrations.
However, thousands more people joined the scene, compelling the security forces to retreat. Videos posted on social media showed crowds gathered in the area, singing and chanting slogans of reform.
Protesters also criticized senior politicians seen as close Iran including former prime minister Nouri Maliki as well as leaders of militia units such as Hadi al-Amiri, Qais Khazali, and Sadr—who had for months shown his ostensible support for the protest movement.
Editing by John J. Catherine