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UN calls for end to violence in Iraq

China Daily | Updated: 2019-10-07 07:43

Demonstrators gather at a protest after the lifting of the curfew, following four days of nationwide anti-government protests that turned violent, in Baghdad, Iraq, Oct 5, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

BAGHDAD - The United Nations urged on Saturday an end to violence in Iraq, after five days of anti-government rallies marred by the deaths of nearly 100 people, mainly protesters.

The demonstrations - which have evolved from initial demands for employment and better services to the fall of the government - carried on into the night in various neighborhoods of Baghdad and southern Iraq, as authorities struggled to agree on a response.

Security forces broke up a mass rally in the east of Baghdad, where protesters faced volleys of tear gas and live rounds fired in their direction, witnesses said.

"Five days of reported deaths and injuries: This must stop," said the United Nations' top official in Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert.

She described the violence as a "senseless loss of life" and said those behind it must be held accountable.

The authorities accused unidentified snipers of shooting into the crowd and said they were searching residential neighborhoods for those responsible.

At least 99 people have died and nearly 4,000 wounded since protests began in the capital on Tuesday before spreading to the south of the country, according to the Iraqi parliament's human rights commission.

The mainly young male protesters have insisted their movement is not linked to any party or religious establishment and have scoffed at recent overtures by politicians.

On Saturday, demonstrators in the southern city of Nasiriyah set fire to the headquarters of six political parties.

Thousands also descended on the governor's headquarters in the southern city of Diwaniyah, where gunfire was heard, according to correspondents from Agence France-Presse.

The parliamentary human rights commission said on Saturday that most of those who have died in the previous five days were in Baghdad, while 250 other people were treated in the capital for sniper wounds.

"We demand clarification from the Iraqi government on those wounded in Baghdad by sniper fire, which is ongoing today," the commission said.

Hundreds of Iraqi people had taken to the streets of eastern Baghdad on Saturday as unrest entered its fifth day in Iraq, with security forces unleashing tear gas canisters and live ammunition to disperse them.

Angry demonstrators gathered near al-Nakheel Mall in Palestine Street to start a new protest, but the security forces fired live bullets and tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd, sparking clashes and chaos at the scene, the source from Baghdad police told Xinhua News Agency.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, the situation was calm and life seemed to return to normal in Tahrir Square, which witnessed the worst clashes during the past few days between the security forces and the protesters who wanted to cross the nearby bridge to reach the heavily fortified Green Zone. The zone houses the main offices of the Iraqi government and some foreign embassies.

Early on Friday morning, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi called on the protesters to calm down.

In his televised speech, he said that "your demands for reforms and the fight against corruption have reached us", promising that his government would not make "empty promises".

AFP - Xinhua

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