A demonstrator wears a mask to protect himself from tear gas during a protest in Baghdad on Saturday. Khalid Al Mousily / Reuters
More than 60 people have died in renewed anti-government protests across Iraq, officials said on Saturday, with clashes breaking out as demonstrators turned their fury against government and paramilitary offices.
The death toll from protests this month has soared to 220, including dozens killed since Friday as they torched government buildings or offices belonging to factions of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force.
Protesters tried to reach Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, home to embassies and government offices.
Security forces fired tear gas as protesters tried to remove blast walls from a main bridge leading to the government district.
Three people were killed when they were struck by tear gas canisters, security and medical officials said.
A second medical official said three protesters were shot dead by security guards when they attacked the office of a provincial official in the southern town of Nasiriyah.
Four anti-government protesters shot dead in southern Iraq
Iraq curfews shootings as 19 die in anti-government rallies
The Interior Ministry and the military issued statements on Saturday saying some protesters have exploited the rallies to attack government buildings and political party offices.
Meanwhile, the heads of powerful Iraqi paramilitary factions threatened they would take "revenge" on Saturday after their offices in the south of the country were torched during deadly protests.
Demonstrators set fire to dozens of government buildings and offices belonging to the influential Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force across southern cities late Friday.
In Missan province, the headquarters of the Asaib Ahl Al Haq, one of the Hashed factions, was torched and a leading commander of the group reportedly killed.
Wissam al-Alyawi was later pronounced dead by the group, after footage circulated online showing him writhing in an ambulance as a crowd of men tried to break into it.
Asaib chief Qais al-Khazaali was in Baghdad on Saturday for the funeral procession of Alyawi and his brother Issam, apparently killed in the same incident.
The town of Nasiriyah in the mainly Shiite south has seen especially violent protests in recent weeks and was placed under a 24-hour curfew on Friday.
At least 48 people have been killed since the protests resumed this week, after 149 were killed in a wave of demonstrations earlier this month. The spontaneous, leaderless protests are directed at the political establishment that came to power after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, which many blame for spiraling corruption and poor public services.
The protests against the Shiite-dominated government have been largely concentrated in Shiite-majority areas.
The ministry said some of its members were killed as police battled violent protesters but did not give a number. The military warned that it would take necessary and legal measures to deal with those it called saboteurs.
Iraqi officials said 12 of those killed on Friday died in a fire they had set when they stormed the office of a government-backed militia in the southern town of Diwaniyah. A security official said protesters torched the offices of at least three militias in southern Maysan province.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
Adel Abdel Mahdi's written statement was greeted with cheers and blaring music across Baghdad's iconic Tahrir (Liberation) Square.
More than 30 people were taken to hospital with breathing difficulties
More than 250 Iraqis have been killed in demonstrations against government since the start of October.
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).