Iraq protests death toll rises to 319, nearly 15,000 injured
Four protesters were killed in Baghdad on Saturday after Iraqi Security Forces pushed back hundreds of protesters and burnt several tents that were being used for an overnight sit-in, according to Iraqi activists.
Teargas and live ammunition was used by Iraqi security forces in the al Khalani commercial area, about 1 kilometer from Tahrir square — Iraq’s ground zero for demonstrations.
According to the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq nearly 15,000 have also been injured.
The higher death toll also includes two people who were killed Friday in the southern city of Basra during violent protests, the IHCR said in a statement. Basra is an oil-rich city located some 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Iraq’s capital Baghdad.
Another 100 people were wounded in Basra as Iraqi security forces used teargas and live bullets.
At least 23 students were also injured in Nasiriyah Sunday, after a tear gas cannon from Iraqi forces mistakenly went off inside a nearby intermediate school for girls, witnesses told CNN.
Hundreds of high school students were marching the streets in a fresh round of protests in the city, located south of Baghdad. Witnesses say Iraqi security forces began to use tear gas on the protesters when one of the tear gas cannons went off inside the school for girls.
The condition of the students were not immediately clear and authorities have not officially commented on the incident.
Biggest protests since fall of Saddam
Protests have erupted in Baghdad and in several Shiite provinces in the south over unemployment, government corruption and the lack of basic services — such as electricity and clean water.
Many Iraqis blame the current political parties in power for their economic hardship and the scale of the protests, believed to be the biggest since the fall of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003, took the government by surprise.
Following the deadly response from Iraqi security forces, demonstrators are calling for early elections and demanding that the government step down.
Amid Saturday’s violent protests, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi said that his government will make “significant ministerial amendments,” and that the young generation of Iraqis is leading a movement that “shakes the entire country.”
Abdul Mahdi agreed to resign on October 31 after weeks of anti-government protests.
In a televised speech to the nation on Iraq’s Al-Iraqiya TV, President Barham Salih said Abdul Mahdi had agreed to step down on the condition that a successor is agreed to replace him.
“The Prime Minister has agreed to resign,” Salih said, adding that Abdul Mahdi had asked “political blocs to reach an acceptable alternative” in order “to prevent a vacuum.”
Officials have attempted to regain control with the use of lethal force, while also imposing curfews and internet blackouts. The government said it only shoots when attacked, but demonstrators have disputed that.