BAGHDAD (AP) — Renewed clashes overnight in Baghdad between anti-government demonstrators and security forces killed four protesters, Iraqi security and hospital officials said on Thursday.
The altercations on two key bridges in the Iraqi capital also left at least 44 people wounded, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. Both bridges appeared to be calm by morning hours.
Initial reports had two killed but the death toll later rose after two of the wounded protesters died of their wounds.
Fighting also resumed overnight in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, south of Baghdad, between protesters and security forces.
In Baghdad, one protester was killed when security forces used live rounds to repel demonstrators on Ahrar Bridge. The other protester was killed when a tear gas canister was fired on Sinak Bridge, hitting him in the head.
Two protester later succumbed to their injuries.
Protesters have been occupying parts of Baghdad’s three main bridges — Sinak and Ahrar and Jumurhiya — leading to the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government.
Tents have been set up under the bridges and also on central Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the protest movement, where first-aid volunteers treat those wounded by pieces of exploded tear gas canisters and live fire.
“Around 1:30 am, the shooting started with live ammunition, tear gas, and sound grenades,” said one volunteer, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisal. “There were martyrs and we received several injured,” people with breathing difficulties and bullet wounds.
In Karbala, the protesters threw crudely made fire bombs, also known as Molotov cocktails, at security forces while anti-riot police responded by throwing stones at the protesters.
Dozens of protesters had attacked the Iranian Consulate in this city earlier in November, scaling concrete barriers and saying they rejected the influence of the neighboring country in Iraqi affairs.
At least 320 protesters have been killed and thousands have been wounded since the unrest began on Oct. 1, when demonstrators took to the streets in Baghdad and across Iraq’s mainly Shiite south to decry rampant government corruption and lack of basic services despite Iraq’s oil wealth.
The leaderless movement seeks to dismantle the sectarian system and unseat the government, including Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.
Reporting by Samya Kullab
Image: Anti-government protesters stage a sit-in on and around a bridge leading to the Green Zone government areas, during ongoing protests in Baghdad, Iraq, on Thursday, Nov. 21 (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)