Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks in the capital, Baghdad, and across the Shiite south, demanding sweeping political change. The protesters complain of widespread corruption, a lack of job opportunities and poor basic services, with regular power cuts despite the country's vast oil reserves.
The attack was among the deadliest since Oct. 1, when thousands of Iraqis took to the streets calling for sweeping political reforms and the end of Iran's influence in Iraqi affairs. Security forces regularly use live rounds and tear gas to disperse the demonstrations, leading to heavy casualties.
Security forces used live fire against protesters near Shuhada Bridge in central Baghdad. Gunfire was used against demonstrators in Basra, the main source of Iraq's oil wealth, who had staged a days-long sit-in.
Eyewitnesses said several demonstrators were killed late on Friday when unidentified men attacked and seized a building near the main protest camp in Iraq's capital.
Several rockets slammed into an Iraqi military complex that hosts US forces next to Baghdad International Airport on Monday, wounding six Iraqi troops, the military said.
The protests represent a second phase of a week-long movement in early October that ended with more than 150 people dead. Rallies had been set to resume on Friday, with a range of actors from Iraq's highest Shiite authority to the United Nations urging restraint.
More than 30 people were taken to hospital with breathing difficulties
The death toll from protests this month has soared to 220, including dozens killed since Friday as they torched government buildings or offices.
Eleven people were killed during protests overnight in two southern Iraqi cities, including a policeman, police and medical sources said on Thursday, raising the death toll to 18 since anti-government protests