Seven people were killed on Thursday when Iraqi security forces shot live fire and tear gas canisters at demonstrators in Baghdad, security and medical sources said, in renewed deadly violence as authorities seek to crush anti-government protests.
The cause of death was live fire and tear gas canisters aimed directly at the head, the sources said, adding that at least 78 people were wounded in the unrest.
Police said earlier one protester was killed near Baghdad’s Sinak bridge and one near the adjacent Ahrar bridge.
Two other critically wounded protesters died in hospital later, one from wounds caused by live fire shots to the head and the other struck in the head by tear gas canister, police and hospital sources said.
Three more were killed later in the day, including two by live fire near the Ahrar bridge.
Hospital sources said some of the wounded protesters had injuries sustained from live ammunition and others were wounded by rubber bullets and tears gas canisters.
Protesters are still holding ground, controlling parts of three major bridges in central Baghdad, which lead to the city’s fortified Green Zone, where government buildings and foreign embassies are located.
Weeks of unrest
At least 325 people have been killed and thousands have been wounded since the unrest in Baghdad and Iraq‘s mainly Shia south began in early October, the largest since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
The leaderless movement seeks to dismantle the sectarian system and unseat the government, including Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.
The demonstrators said they were against government corruption and lack of basic services despite Iraq’s oil wealth.
Deadly use of live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades against mostly unarmed demonstrators have stoked the unrest.
The protests are an eruption of public anger against a ruling elite seen as enriching itself off the state and serving foreign powers, especially Iran, as many Iraqis languish in poverty without jobs, healthcare or education.