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The New Arab

Iraq protesters hang body of alleged executed sniper in Baghdad square

Iraqis gather at Tahrir square in the capital Baghdad [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 December, 2019

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Gruesome footage purportedly showing an executed sniper hanging from traffic lights in Baghdad spread across social media as demonstrators claim to have taken revenge over the brutal anti-protest crackdown.
Anti-government protesters in the Iraqi capital are thought to have hung the body of an alleged sniper belonging to one a pro-government militias from traffic lights in one of the city's central squares.

Gruesome images of the scene purported to be in Baghdad's Wathba Square flooded social media on Thursday, the morning after a third anti-government activist was murdered in the protest-hit country in less than 10 days.

Sources told The New Arab's Arabic-language service that a sniper opened fire on crowds gathered in Wathba Square on Thursday morning, killing five people and injuring ten.

Although present at the rally, security forces did not intervene to stop the gunman, which prompted protesters to storm the house where the gunshots were coming from.

The circumstances under which the alleged sniper was killed are uncertain, with other sources reporting he was shot dead by security forces. 

Various photos and videos showed the man hung by his feet from a traffic light above crowds of demonstrators, many of whom were also filming the incident.

Iraq analyst Rasha al-Aqeedi tweeted that the protests had "taken an awful turn".

"Extrajudicial punishments are what militias carry out and not an alternative to a failing government," she said.

Protesters as well as the UN have accused militias of killing, abducting and seriously wounding demonstrators using snipers and firing military-grade tear gas canisters at point blank range, among other tactics.

Comment: Kidnappings, killings and threats: Inside Iraq's authoritarian turn

The protester death toll rose to 511 with over 21,000 injured, Iraqi medical sources at the health ministry said on Thursday.

The UN has urged Iraqi authorities to hold to account the perpetrators of a string of murders and abductions of activists and protesters, which have been occurring on an almost daily basis since the unrest began on 1 October.

"Groups referred to as 'militia', 'unknown third parties', 'armed entities', 'outlaws' and 'spoilers' are responsible for the deliberate killings and abductions of demonstrators," said a UN report released Wednesday.

"These acts contribute to a climate of anger and fear. The government must identify those groups responsible without delay and hold perpetrators accountable."

The powerful Iran-backed Shia militia Hashd al-Shaabi - also known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) - are suspected to have carried out much of the anti-protest violence.

The body of Ali Al-Lami was found on Wednesday morning with gunshot wounds to the head.

Last week, the bruised body of a 19-year-old protester was dumped outside her home in Baghdad. 

On Sunday, a prominent Karbala activist was shot dead by a gunman who was riding on the back of a motorbike.

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