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.
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.
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.
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.
Iraq's parliament called on Sunday for the United States and other foreign troops to leave after Iran's most prominent general, Qassem Soleimani, was killed on Friday in a US drone strike on his convoy at a Baghdad airport.
America's military presence in Iraq has become a hot-button issue in the country since a US drone strike killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis on January 3 outside Baghdad's international airport.
Thousands of supporters of Iraqi armed factions close to Iran had massed at the embassy on Tuesday in outrage over US air strikes that killed 25 pro-Iran fighters at the weekend.
"US citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land," the embassy said in a statement. The US strike hit outside Baghdad airport early Friday but security sources told the media it was still open to flights.
Firefighting vehicles had been deployed to extinguish the blaze, which broke out Wednesday night in Nakhon Nayok province, 114 kilometers (70 miles) northeast of Bangkok, government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said, adding that helicopters would be sent to provide further assistance.
Russia on Thursday charged an American correspondent for the Wall Street Journal with spying, in a case certain to escalate Moscow's diplomatic feud with Washington over the war in Ukraine and likely to further isolate Russia.
The preliminary investigations into the incident of the Asian man, who committed suicide after killing his family, showed that he had poisoned his wife, while throttled his two daughters (aged between 3 to 7).