UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Three demonstrators were killed in Iraq on Saturday, with authorities reopening squares and streets in Baghdad and southern cities, according to AFP correspondents, which the government confirmed and raised protesters’ fears of a widening campaign and the breaking of demand protests that have been going on for nearly four months.
A protester was killed in Baghdad and two others in the city of Nasiriyah by live bullets on Saturday, according to medical sources, during clashes with security forces.
The same sources reported that more than 65 protesters were injured in the two governorates.
The actions of the security forces come in the wake of a large demonstration called by Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr in Baghdad to demand the departure of the American forces from Iraq, after which he announced that he stopped supporting the demanded demonstrations.
Medics said that by Saturday morning, security forces had started using tear gas and live bullets, and had removed tents in the center of the capital, wounding at least 19 protesters.
An AFP correspondent saw security personnel chasing with truncheons a group of young protesters.
A protesting doctor told France Presse that she saw riot police set fire to large tents used as field clinics to treat wounded protesters.
On Friday evening, the security forces stormed the protest square in the southern city of Basra, burning a number of tents and dispersing the demonstrators by force, according to an AFP correspondent.
In Baghdad, the security forces evacuated the protesters square, Muhammad al-Qasim Highway and the Al-Ahrar Bridge in the center of the capital on Monday, according to a statement issued by the Baghdad Operations Command.
The security forces also reopened Al-Ahrar Bridge, one of the most important bridges that witnessed during the past period, hit-and-run operations with the demonstrators.
– “Editorial Shield” –
This bridge connects the sides of Rusafa and Karkh, to the heavily fortified Green Zone that houses government offices and foreign embassies.
In the central Tahrir Square for protests in central Baghdad, protesters told France Press on Saturday that they heard gunfire and tear gas.
On Saturday afternoon, confrontations took place between demonstrators and riot forces in central Baghdad, but the security forces have not yet entered the main protest center in Tahrir Square.
Young men spread around the square, carrying black shields made of metal barrels, and inscribed on it the phrase “Tahrir Shield Band”.
A cameraman from France Press saw pro-Sadr protesters lift the tents they had set up months ago.
Many of these are from Sadr City, a stronghold of supporters of the Shiite cleric in eastern Baghdad.
One of the protesters accused Sadr of paving the way for a wider campaign by withdrawing the political cover.
“When your supporters began to leave, the riot police came at 3:00 am (00:00 GMT) and took over the entire Liberal Bridge. Why?” Said the protester angrily, addressing Sadr.
Sadr, who controls the “Saeron” coalition, the largest political bloc in parliament, backed the protests first in the beginning of October, and called on the government to resign.
But he called for a separate demonstration to demand the departure of 5,200 American soldiers from Iraq, after the American air strike on a plane in Baghdad at the beginning of this month in which the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and the deputy head of the PMF Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis were killed.
– Tahrir Square is standing.
On Friday, thousands of people flocked to Baghdad to participate in the demonstration, which Sadr did not attend but praised the turnout, and said hours later that he would not interfere with the demand movement “neither in the negative nor in the affirmative.”
Protesters speaking from Tahrir Square told France Press that they heard the sound of live bullets and tear gas.
While the security forces did not come close to Tahrir Square to regain control, a police source assured France Press that there was no intention to do so.
The protesters call for early elections under a new electoral law, an independent prime minister and accountability for corrupt officials and those who have ordered the use of violence against the demonstrators.
More than 470 people have been killed in violence linked to the protest since its inception in early October, according to an AFP tally based on medical and security sources.
The protest movement has taken a heavy blow in recent weeks as tensions rise between the United States and Iran.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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