Iraq protest death toll nears 100: Rights Panel - GulfToday

Iraq protest death toll nears 100: Rights Panel


Anti-government protesters set fires and close a street during a demonstration in Baghdad. Associated Press

The death toll from mass protests in Baghdad and cities across southern Iraq rose to 93 on Saturday as the unrest entered its fifth day, parliament's human rights commission said.

Nearly 4,000 people have also been injured since the protests against chronic unemployment, poor public services and widespread corruption erupted in the capital on Tuesday, the commission said.

It was not immediately clear whether the latest deaths were from Friday's huge protests or fresh demonstrations on Saturday.

The authorities have imposed a virtual blackout of the internet and confirmation of protest casualties in the provinces has trickled in slowly.

An injured protestor is rushed to the hospital after being shot during a demonstration in Baghdad. AP

A total of 540 demonstrators have been arrested, of whom nearly 200 remain in custody, the panel added.

Iraqi PM addresses the nation urges protesters to go home

Defying curfews, tear gas and live rounds, truckfuls of demonstrators gathered to vent anger over corruption, unemployment and poor services in the biggest challenge yet to Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi.

In his first public address since protests began, the embattled premier made a televised speech early Friday as heavy gunfire rang out across Baghdad.

Demonstrators block a road during a curfew in Baghdad. Wissm Al Okili/Reuters

He described recent events as "the destruction of the state, the entire state", but refrained from directly responding to the protesters' demands.

Instead Abdel Mahdi defended his government's achievements and pledged a monthly stipend for families in need, while asking for time to implement a reform agenda promised last year.

Until now the leader has preferred to communicate by written statement, even as state media said he had met with unnamed protest leaders.

Hours earlier in Baghdad crowds swelled around the ministry for oil and industry, with demonstrators vowing to march to the capital's emblematic Tahrir Square.

"We'll keep going until the government falls," said 22-year-old Ali, an unemployed university graduate.

"I've got nothing but 250 lira ($0.20) in my pocket while government officials have millions," he told the media.

A boy covers his face with a rag as protesters clash with riot police in the Iraqi capital Baghdad. AFP

Most demonstrators carried the Iraqi flag while others held banners bearing the name of Hussein, a revered figure in Shiite Islam.

Police and army troops used automatic weapons mounted on military vehicles to fire at the ground, the bullets ricocheting into the crowd.

Wounded protesters piled into small tuk-tuks to reach hospitals.

"Why do the police shoot at Iraqis like them? They suffer like us -- they should help and protect us," said protester Abu Jaafar.

The demonstrations have left 31 people dead, including two police officers, and more than 1,000 people have been wounded.

Agence France-Presse

Related articles