Iraq President Calls For "Halt To Escalation" After Protests

Demonstrators gather at a protest during a curfew two days after the nationwide anti-government protests turned violent in Baghdad

Violence escalates in Iraq amid anti- government protests

Protesters, who took to the streets on Tuesday frustrated over joblessness and corruption, have been met with live ammunition from security forces attempting to break up the mass demonstrations that have convulsed Baghdad and parts of southern Iraq for days.

After meeting through the night Saturday, cabinet officials released a series of planned reforms, which addressed land distributions and military enlistments as well as increasing welfare stipends for poor families and training programs for unemployed youth. The interior ministry denies government forces have shot directly at protesters.

Baghdad has been at the center of anti-government protests that have quickly spread to the country's south.

The semi-official Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, affiliated with the parliament, put the death toll at 93, and said almost 4,000 people have been injured.

On Friday, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who took over as premier just a year ago, appeared on television in an effort to placate protesters and persuade them to go home, saying their "legitimate demands" would be heard.

The protesters are demanding for better living, job opportunities and basic services.

Security forces opened fire directly at hundreds of anti-government demonstrators in central Baghdad, killing some protesters and injuring dozens, hours after Iraq's top Shiite cleric warned both sides to end four days of violence "before it's too late". He added that "not a political party office" or government office has been spared attacks.

"We can't accept the continuation of the situation like this", Abdul-Mahdi told his cabinet on Saturday.

Protests continued for a fifth straight day across Iraq, mostly in Baghdad and the Shi'ite provinces to the south.

At least 95 demonstrators have died across Iraq, according to a Reuters tally based on police and medical sources.

Another protester was killed and 13 wounded in the southern Baghad neighborhood of Zaafaraniyeh, health and police officials said.

Ali al-Bayati, a member of the commission, said that 4,000 other people have been wounded in clashes between security forces and protesters.

The move came amid demonstrations in Baghdad and southern provinces against high unemployment and rampant corruption since October 1.

But powerful political parties that have dominated Iraqi politics since the 2003 US -led invasion and toppling of dictator Saddam Hussein have not indicated they are willing to relinquish the institutions they control.

At least another talented parliamentary group allied itself with Sadr from the authorities.

It is the bloodiest unrest and biggest challenge to Iraq's security since the declared defeat of Islamic State in 2017 and has shaken Abdul Mahdi's year-old government.

"There is no justification for the use of live bullets against peaceful demonstrators", commission's chief Aqeel al-Musawi said.

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