Today's Paper Search Latest Core values App Traffic In the news #Gazette200 Listen iPad FAQ Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles Archive
ADVERTISEMENT
story.lead_photo.caption A protester wields a police-fired tear-gas canister as violence broke out Friday during anti-government demonstrations in Baghdad. More photos are available at arkansasonline.com/1116baghdad/

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas in renewed clashes with anti-government protesters in central Baghdad on Friday, killing three people.

Separately, two protesters were killed and 10 people wounded when a roadside bomb exploded in a central square, police and hospital officials said. They said the blast, which damaged several cars in the area, occurred in Tayaran Square, less than a third of a mile from Tahrir Square, the epicenter of anti-government protests in the capital.

The clashes came as Iraq's top Shiite religious leader warned its government to heed calls for sweeping political changes.

Earlier, protesters repeatedly regrouped from under clouds of tear gas as they fought to tear down a concrete wall blocking access to Khilani Square. Security forces erected the barrier to keep the demonstrations from crossing a bridge that leads to the fortified Green Zone, the seat of government and many foreign embassies.

Tuk-tuk drivers ferried the injured back to makeshift medical tents stocked with saline used to douse demonstrators exposed to the tear gas. Many threw up on the floor when they got there, saying the gas was the strongest they had ever experienced.

"We aren't afraid of them, the authorities," said Akeel, 21, who asked to be identified only by his first name.

At least 320 people have been killed and thousands have been wounded since the unrest began on Oct. 1, when protesters took to the streets in the tens of thousands. They were angered by what they said was widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services.

Gallery: Three killed by security forces in Baghdad protests

[GALLERY:  Three killed by security forces in Baghdad protests » arkansasonline.com/1116baghdad/]

Iraq is one of the world's most oil-rich nations, but the populace has seen little of that wealth.

Hours before the clashes began, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani emphasized his support for the demonstrators in his weekly Friday sermon, saying none of their demands have been met so far and that electoral improvements should be a priority. The senior cleric called for a new election law that would restore public confidence in the system and give voters the opportunity to bring "new faces" to power.

But Iraqi authorities appeared determined to disperse the protesters and keep them confined to a shrinking space in the capital's center.

The confrontations in Khilani Square began on Friday afternoon after hundreds of protesters who breached the concrete barriers streamed into the square, where they were met by soldiers and riot police.

Around 5:30 p.m., live rounds were heard by The Associated Press several hundred meters from the square, and shortly after wafts of stinging tear gas caused a mass of protesters to run toward the medical tents.

Iraqi security and medical officials, who requested anonymity in line with regulations, said three protesters were killed and at least 25 others wounded.

Several protesters said breaking through the barrier leading to Khilani was key to counter attempts by the security forces to suppress the anti-government movement and limit protesters to the nearby Tahrir Square.

"They are trying to limit us to one place," said Nashat Akram, 24, recovering in a medical tent in Tahrir Square.

The atmosphere at Tahrir was a striking contrast with the violence nearby. Baghdad's main square has been transformed into a carnival-like hub where protesters gather around music, comic art installations, pop-up food vendors and street shops.

The demonstrations have kept up for weeks in central Baghdad and the mostly Shiite southern provinces, despite the clampdown by Iraqi security forces.

Al-Sistani, whose opinion holds major sway over Iraqis, said a fair electoral law should give voters the ability to replace current political leaders. He said corruption among the ruling elite has reached "unbearable limits" for a population struggling to meet their basic needs.

"If those in power think they can evade dealing with real reform by procrastination, they are mistaken," al-Sistani said.

Information for this article was contributed by Murtada Faraj of The Associated Press.

A Section on 11/16/2019

Print Headline: Baghdad violence leaves 5 people dead

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsor Content

COMMENTS - It looks like you're using Internet Explorer, which isn't compatible with the Democrat-Gazette commenting system. You can join the discussion by using another browser, like Firefox or Google Chrome.
It looks like you're using Microsoft Edge. The Democrat-Gazette commenting system is more compatible with Firefox and Google Chrome.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT