This was the first deadly incident in months at Tahrir Square, symbol of anti-government protests. The two men were hit in the head and neck with tear gas canisters. More than 26 protesters were wounded. Witnesses said security forces fired live ammunition to disperse the crowd. the Prime Minister ordered an investigation.
Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Clashes between Iraqi protesters and security forces in central Baghdad have left at least two protesters dead, security and medical sources said on Monday.
This was the first deadly incident in months at Tahrir Square, which became a symbol of anti-government protests during months-long mass unrest last year.
Medics at two hospitals in Baghdad said two men were hit in the head and neck with tear gas canisters and died of their injuries. More than 26 protesters were wounded and several members of the security forces suffered minor injuries, police said.
Since early October, an increasingly wider protest movement has developed across the country against the government and the authorities. Police have cracked down hard on demonstrations, but in the end Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi had to resign. Protestors, irrespective of ethnic or religious affiliation, want to see the fall of the whole political class.
In late November repression intensified when the Iranian consulate in Najaf was attacked twice, followed by the death of more than 450 dead and 20,000 wounded.
The protesters on Monday had begun marching from Tahrir Square to nearby Tayaran Square chanting about worsening power cuts during a heat wave that sent temperatures soaring above 50 degrees Celsius.
Security forces tried to contain the march firing tear gas, according to police, medics and protesters. The protesters threw stones and petrol bombs, a security source said.
Two protesters who were at the demonstration, and Ali Bayati, a member of Iraq’s semi-official High Commission for Human Rights, said that security forces fired live ammunition to disperse the crowd.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said in a televised speech later on Monday that the protests “are a legitimate right and the security forces do not have the permission to fire even one bullet in the direction of the protesters”.
He said he had opened an investigation and demanded results within 72 hours.
Military spokesman Yehia Rasool said in a statement that security forces had been given strict instructions not to use force against protesters unless necessary.