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Six protesters shot dead in southern Iraq as brutal crackdown continues

More than 300 people have been killed since early October [AFP]

Date of publication: 24 November, 2019

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Despite the overnight violence, students and teachers defied warnings to return to school on Sunday in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah.
Three Iraqi protesters were shot dead overnight in the southern city of Nasiriyah, where anti-government demonstrators shut down schools and blockaded bridges, police and medical sources told Reuters on Sunday.

At least three more demonstrators were killed on Sunday in the southern city of Basra, where protesters and security forces faced off over the crucial Umm Qasr port.

Protesters had gathered on three key bridges in Nasiriyah, eyewitnesses said, with security forces firing live bullets and tear gas to disperse them.

More than 50 other people were wounded in the stand-off with security forces, mostly by tear gas and live fire, as protesters burned car tyres on roads and outside many public offices in the city, some 300 kilometres (200 miles) south of the capital Baghdad.

Infants and children were evacuated from a hospital in the centre of Nasiriyah overnight after tear gas spread inside hospital yards, two sources said.

 

Around 350 people have been killed and thousands wounded in the protest movement that erupted in early October, which has seen protesters urge the overthrow of a political class widely seen as corrupt and responsible for economic mismanagement.

Widespread poverty and lack of access to jobs, healthcare and education have seen the protest movement sweep Iraq's mostly rural south, where many students and teachers have been skipping school to lead rallies and sit-ins outside public offices.

The education ministry has issued a directive that classes resume on Sunday, the first day of the school and work week in Iraq.

But protesters in Nasiriyah defied the ministry and shut down schools anyway, AFP reported.

In the southern city of Basra, demonstrators blocked main roads just before dawn, including those leading to the key ports of Umm Qasr and Khor al-Zubair.

The ports, which bring in food and medicine to Iraq but also export fuel products, have seen delays in recent weeks with protesters attempting to block access.

Fighting over the entrance to Umm Qasr port intensified on Sunday, with at least two protesters shot dead by security forces according to Reuters.

Clashes also pitted protesters against security forces in Karbala, one of Iraq's two Shia holy cities, with at least 24 people wounded overnight.

The two sides lobbed Molotov cocktails at each other from behind barricades set up in small alleyways.

"They're throwing Molotov cocktails at us and at midnight, they started shooting live rounds," one demonstrator said.

The streets were lit only by fires from the exploding makeshift grenades and green laser pointers used by demonstrators to disrupt the riot police's vision.

"Our demands are clear: the downfall of this corrupt government," said another demonstrator, his face wrapped in a black scarf.

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