Iraqi demonstrators burn Iranian consulate in Iraq's Najaf

Demonstrators and security forces lob Molotov cocktails at each other during clashes

Demonstrators and security forces lob Molotov cocktails at each other during clashes

At least two demonstrators were shot dead in Baghdad during clashes between protesters and security forces Wednesday, Iraqi medical and security sources said.

Four people were killed in Baghdad, where security forces opened fire with live ammunition and rubber bullets against protesters near a bridge over the Tigris river, the sources said, and twelve died in clashes in Najaf.

Some of the killings appear to have resulted from the deliberate use of live ammunition by security forces, while others occurred when tear gas canisters struck protesters in the head.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with the regulations.

Anti-government protests erupted in Iraq on October 1 and have deteriorated into bloodshed in the capital and southern regions, with more almost 370 people losing their lives. Protesters occupy parts of the Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahrar bridges, all of which lead to or near the fortified area.

Since October 1, protesters in Iraq - a majority Shiite country, like its neighbour Iran - have been calling for the fall of a central government they see as both irretrievably corrupt and beholden to Tehran.

The provincial governor in Nasiriyah, Adel al-Dakhili, blamed the crackdown on Shummary, who was the military commander of the southern port city of Basra when demonstrations there were brutally suppressed in 2018.

For almost two months, the country's capital and Shiite-majority south have been gripped by the largest protests since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Demonstrators, dispersed by security forces, regrouped at Nasiriyah's main police station, setting it on fire.

A curfew was imposed in the city of Najaf following the episode.

Though the security situation in Iraq has dramatically improved after Iraqi security forces defeated IS in late 2017, terror attacks have been occurring from time to time in the country, which has been hit recently by widespread protests against the government.

"Iran has officially communicated its disgust to the Iraq ambassador in Tehran", he said in comments carried by Iran's state news agency IRNA.

The violence has killed more than 350 people, according to police and medics.

Late Tuesday, Baghdad was rocked by another kind of violence - three explosions that went off just after Iraqis had celebrated a football win against Qatar in the Gulf Cup.

Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's Middle East Research Director, said: 'The scenes from Nasiriyah this morning more closely resemble a war zone than city streets and bridges.

Visuals from the protests showed a large crowd outside the consulate shouting "Out, out Iran!" as they waved Iraqi flags while the building burned. The Iranian staff were not harmed and escaped out the back door.

In Basra, security forces were deployed in the city's main roads to prevent protesters from staging sit-ins on important avenues.

Influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on Iraq's government to resign "immediately to stop the bloodletting", while imploring protesters to maintain the peace.

Protesters have accused the ruling elite of embezzling for personal gain state funds that are desperately needed to fix failing public services and rehabilitate schools.

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