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Iraqi forces kill another protester, as rockets land near US embassy

Protests have raged across the country [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 January, 2020

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Iraqi security forces shot at anti-government protesters on Sunday and have killed at least one person as demonstrations intensify across the country.

At least one person has died in anti-government protests in Iraq's capital as security forces shot at the crowds on Sunday, as rockets landed near the US embassy in the city in a continuation of unclaimed attacks on American installations in the country.

According to reports, protesters were also wounded by government forces in Al-Khilani Square, Central Baghdad, with many of the injuries “severe.”

Anti-government protests erupted in Baghdad on 1 October and has since escalated in violence as security forces and unidentified gunmen shot indiscriminately at protesters in the streets.

Nearly 500 people have been killed since pro-government forces suppressed demonstrations, with Iraqi protesters mounting an unprecedented leaderless challenge to the country's Iran-linked authority and militias.

Security forces shot live rounds to clear protest hotspots in Baghdad and southern Iraq for a second day on Sunday, sparking clashes with demonstrators determined to keep the movement alive.

Anti-government protesters took to the streets despite fearing their campaign would be quashed when riot police on Saturday moved in on their tent camps in the capital, the southern port city of Basra, the holy city of Najaf and other cities as well.

At least 17 protesters were wounded, including six with bullet wounds, according to a police source.

The young demonstrators have mostly thrown rocks at riot police but some have tossed Molotov cocktails.

'Protect American sites'

The US called on Iraq Sunday to protect American diplomatic facilities after the US embassy in Baghdad was hit by three rockets.

"We call on the Government of Iraq to fulfill its obligations to protect our diplomatic facilities," a State Department spokesperson said in a statement.

The attack marked a dangerous escalation in a spree of rocket attacks in recent months that have targeted the embassy or Iraqi military bases where American troops are deployed.

None of the attacks has been claimed, but Washington has repeatedly blamed Iran-backed military factions in Iraq.

On Sunday, one rocket hit an embassy cafeteria at dinner time while two others landed nearby, a security source told AFP.

At least three people were injured, sources told Reuters.

This would be the first time in years that staff have been hurt by such attacks.

"Since September there have been over 14 attacks by Iran and Iranian-supported militias on US personnel in Iraq," the State Department spokesperson said.

"The security situation remains tense and Iranian-backed armed groups remain a threat. So, we remain vigilant."

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Mahdi condemned the attack, stating that the continuation of such acts could "drag Iraq into becoming a battlefield." 

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