One Killed as Iraqis Resume Anti-government Protests in Baghdad

Demonstrations kick off again after a two-week hiatus, digging in for the embattled government's ouster ■ 'Resignation would lead country to chaos,' PM says

Anti-government protesters cross the bridge leading to the Green Zone during a demonstration in central Baghdad, Iraq, October 25, 2019
Hadi Mizban,AP

Iraqi security officials say one protester has been shot and killed during demonstrations in the capital of Baghdad. The officials say the protester was killed near the gate leading to the city's heavily fortified Green Zone.

It's the first death in the new round of anti-government protests, which began on Friday morning.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Iraqi police fired live shots into the air as well as rubber bullets and dozens of tear gas canisters to disperse thousands of protesters on the streets of Baghdad. The protesters had marched towards government buildings in protest against corruption and economic hardship.

Anti-government protesters take cover while Iraq security forces fire during a demonstration in central Baghdad, Iraq, October 25, 2019
Hadi Mizban,AP

The incident marked a renewal of the anti-government protests after security forces killed about 150 people in confronting a round of demonstrations at the start of the month.

About 1,000 people, some of whom had camped overnight in Baghdad's Tahrir Square, were marching towards the city's fortified Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign embassies, when they were stopped by security forces.

Medical sources told Reuters about 20 people had been treated in hospital for tear gas exposure.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said in an address on Thursday that people would be free to exercise their right to demonstrate but that violence would not be tolerated.

Abdul Mahdi has struggled to address discontent since sometimes violent unrest erupted in Baghad on October 1 and spread to southern cities. Demonstrators blame corrupt officials and political elites for failing to improve their lives.

Despite the OPEC member's vast oil wealth, many Iraqis live in poverty, have limited access to clean water, electricity, basic healthcare or decent education as the country tries to recover from years of conflict and economic hardship.

Iraqi security forces fire tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters during a demonstration in central Baghdad, Iraq, October 25, 2019
Hadi Mizban,AP

Demonstrations continued for several days at the beginning of the month despite a violent crackdown by security forces.

A government committee set up by Abdul Mahdi said on Monday that 149 civilians were killed because security forces used excessive force and live fire to quell the protests. It recommended the dismissal and trial of dozens of senior security commanders.

Protesters, who have called on the ruling class to step down, gathered again in several cities on Friday morning after a two-week hiatus.

Abdul Mahdi said in Thursday's address that a government collapse would drag Iraq into further turmoil.

"The resignation of the government today without a constitutional alternative, will lead the country into chaos," he said.

He also reiterated reforms announced in the aftermath of the protests, including a cabinet reshuffle, opportunities for unemployed youth, a new court to try corrupt officials, as well as the halving of government salaries, including for top officials.