Iraq's Internet Cut Off Overnight as Security Forces Use Live Fire on Baghdad Protesters

Security forces shot dead at least 13 protesters in the 24 hours to late Tuesday, dispensing with weeks of relative restraint in favour of trying to stamp out dissent

Iraqi demonstrators take part during the ongoing anti-government protests in Baghdad, Iraq November 5, 2019
REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

 Iraqi security forces opened fire on Wednesday to disperse protesters gathered on a bridge in central Baghdad, shooting live bullets in the air, a Reuters witness said. There appeared to be no casualties.

Protesters had blocked the Shuhada bridge since Tuesday afternoon as part of efforts to bring the country to a standstill, with thousands continuing to partake in anti-government demonstrations in the capital and southern provinces

Security forces shot dead at least 13 protesters in the 24 hours to late Tuesday, dispensing with weeks of relative restraint in favour of trying to stamp out dissent.

In the southern oil-rich province of Basra, security forces forcibly dispersed a sit-in overnight but there were no deaths reported, security sources said. Protesters had camped out in front the provincial government building.

Internet access in the capital Baghdad and much of Iraq had been cut off, internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said late on Monday as the country experiences a wave of anti-government protests.

"At the time of writing, national connectivity has fallen below 19% of normal levels sending tens of millions of users offline across Baghdad, also impacting Basra, Karbala and other population centers. The new disruption is believed to be the most severe observed in Iraq to date," NetBlocks said in an evening statement.

Iraqi authorities have previously blocked off internet access in the face of protests and the current outage appeared to end Tuesday morning.

The U.S embassy in Baghdad on Wednesday condemned the deadly violence against unarmed demonstrators, and urged Iraq's leaders to engage urgently with the thousands who have been protesting.

"We deplore the killing and kidnapping (of) unarmed protesters, threats to freedom of expression, and the cycle of violence taking place. Iraqis must be free to make their own choices about the future of the nation," it said in a statement.