Rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone kills Iraqi soldier
Two rockets were fired into Baghdad's fortified Green Zone on Wednesday, killing one Iraqi soldier and adding to the violence gripping the country amid unprecedented anti-government protests and a violent security crackdown.
Security officials said one of the Katyusha rockets landed about 100 meters away from the perimeter of the US Embassy, triggering alert sirens. A soldier manning a checkpoint near a restaurant was killed, they added, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Read more: Desperate Iraqi youth renew protests in unyielding attempt to reclaim their homeland
The Green Zone is home to several Western embassies and government offices. An eyewitness near the embassy said he heard two explosions. It was not immediately clear where the other landed. Earlier this week, three rockets struck a large military base north of Baghdad that houses US and Iraqi forces.
No casualties were reported from that attack.
Iraq has been engulfed by deadly anti-government protests that have picked up momentum in recent days. Iraq's semi-official human rights commission said 100 people have been killed and over 5,000 injured since Friday, when protests resumed after a three-week hiatus.
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The deaths bring to nearly 250 the overall number of people killed this month as security forces crackdown on the growing protest movement.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in a central square in Baghdad and across much of the country's Shia-majority central and southern province Wednesday.
The sound of tear gas explosions echoed throughout the day as security forces battled young men trying to advance toward the Green Zone through Joumhouriya Bridge.
Later on Wednesday, hundreds of people headed to the Al-Sanak Bridge that runs parallel to the Joumhouriya Bridge, opening a new front in their attempts to cross the Tigris River to the Green Zone.
Security forces fired volleys of tear gas that billowed smoke and covered the night sky.
Security and hospital officials said two protesters were killed in the vicinity of Tahrir Square, which has emerged as the epicentre of the protests.
The protests are over deteriorating living conditions, unemployment and corruption. Protesters have been joined by supporters of an influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has called on the government to resign, and have snowballed into the biggest security challenge Iraq has faced since the Islamic State group was defeated two years ago.
The protests are unprecedented in their scope and the fact that they are mostly grassroots, leaderless and spontaneous. In recent days, university and school students have also joined the protesters. Civil society groups have formed, including young people who clean the streets of litter left behind by the protesters.
The Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis Plasschaert, visited Tahrir on Wednesday and was met by an angry group of protesters. Security officials escorted her along the square and shielded her from the demonstrators.
Agencies contributed to this report.