Iraqi security forces fired live rounds Wednesday to disperse new protests in the capital, despite calls from top leaders for restraint after at least three demonstrators were killed. The demonstrations are the first significant popular challenge to Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, who formed his government a year ago this month and who controversially blamed the violence on "aggressors" among the protesters. They appear to be spontaneous and without political leadership, organized by people on social media against corruption and lack of basic services, such as electricity and water.
Heavily armed security forces and dozens of riot police blocked all streets leading to a major central square in the Iraqi capital in an attempt to prevent bigger protests, with armored personnel carriers and SUVs standing guard at intersections. At least two anti-government protesters were killed and more than 200 wounded after security forces used live ammunition and tear gas on protesters Tuesday who were calling for an end to corruption, improved basic services and more jobs.
During renewed protests yesterday, security forces fired in the air and used tear gas to disperse groups of demonstrators in Baghdad, killing one and wounding six. The confrontations were some of the worst in more than a year and signaled the war-weary country could be facing a new round of political instability.