Iraq, bullets and tear gas on protesters: at least five victims
Armed men killed two people in Nassiriya; three more died in the capital, where there were violent clashes for the third consecutive day. Over 500 people have died since the start of the protests in October. The weak condemnation of the international community, inert in the face of violence.
Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Violent repression of anti-government protests by police and security forces continues in Iraq, causing at least five victims nationwide in a few days.
Armed men killed two demonstrators in Nassiriya yesterday, while in Baghdad there was a fight for streets and squares for the third consecutive day: at least three confirmed victims, following the rocket launch on the US embassy.
Diplomatic representations from 16 nations, including the United States, Great Britain and France, have condemned the use of bullets and live ammunition by Iraqi security forces. Foreign ambassadors have asked for credible investigations into the death - according to latest figures - of over 500 demonstrators since last October, when protests began.
On January 25, Iraqi authorities launched a massive offensive to try to end the protest, which broke out in the capital and southern cities on October 1. The protesters call for the expulsion of the entire political class, the fight against widespread corruption and free and fair elections.
Eyewitnesses say that some armed men, on board four trucks, attacked the heart of the protest in Baghdad, killing two people and setting fire to the tents. In response, the demonstrators started building "permanent" shelters using bricks while others raided a nearby police station, setting fire to five vehicles.
The new violence is part of a turbulent context in the country's political and institutional life. On January 24, tens of thousands of people, according to some over a million, took to the streets in response to the appeal of the radical Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, asking for the expulsion of US troops. A demonstration separate from the anti-government protests that have been going on for months against corruption and bad business. The internal tensions come amid international tensions, in particular the head-on collision between the United States and Iran which is taking place (also) on Iraqi territory.
In the capital, protesters threw Molotov cocktails and stones at security forces, who responded by using tear gas and bullets. “This revolution is peaceful. They use all kinds of weapons against us, bullets and tear gas. I was wounded in the face,” screamed Allawi, a hooded protester who wanted to provide only his name.
Protests and clashes have characterized other cities in the south, despite attempts by security forces to clean up the streets and drive out the permanent garrisons of protesters. The government therefore seems willing to use force to end months of demonstrations, while the international community seems to remain inert except for some isolated attempts at condemnation.
“The whole population - shouted Hussein, a demonstrator in Baghdad - took to the streets to protest the government. We demand that all the ruling class resign and leave. We do not want anyone, neither Moqtada [al-Sadr] nor others for him”.