Death toll in Iraq anti-government protests rises to more than 100
Almost 100 anti-government protesters and eight members of the security forces have been killed during anti-government demonstrations in Baghdad and the south of Iraq, bringing the death toll to 104.
An Interior Ministry spokesman said that 6,107 protesters and more than 1,200 security personnel have been wounded in the unrest.
Iraqi officials added seven anti-government demonstrators have been killed in ongoing protests in the capital Baghdad and 17 wounded on Sunday.
Soldiers fired in the direction of about 300 anti-government protesters gathered in a suburb of the Iraqi capital on the sixth day of unrest.
The protests on Sunday came after a bloody night in Baghdad, where 19 people were killed when security forces used live ammunition to break up the demonstrators.
Baghdad has been at the centre of protests that quickly spread to the country’s south.
At least 104 people have been killed, including more than 50 in Baghdad, since Tuesday.
The protests began with demands for jobs and an end to corruption, and now include calls for justice for those killed in the protests.
Iraq’s prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called on protesters to end their street rallies, saying on Saturday that he was ready to meet with them to hear their demands.
He said there were orders for the security forces not to use live ammunition, only allowed in strict cases of self-defence.
By Sunday afternoon, the protesters, mostly young men, were scattered in side streets near Sadr City.
Security forces have boosted their presence in central Baghdad, deploying as far as Sadr city, about 2.5 miles (4km) away from Tahrir Square.
The square, now sealed off, has been the centre of the protests since they erupted on Tuesday.
Army troops blocked a main road preventing the protesters from advancing.
Soldiers then fired towards the protesters in an apparent attempt push them back.
After about an hour, there was more intense gunfire as protesters persisted in trying to advance.
Responding to the gunfire, some protesters piled over one another trying to hide behind the short wall of a nearby water fountain.
As it continued, protesters set fire to tyres to push the soldiers back.
Some protesters arrived in rickshaws, which have also been used by protesters to carry the wounded from the bloody clashes.
A medical official said five people had been wounded, including some in the feet.
The unrest is the most serious challenge facing Iraq two years after the victory against so-called Islamic State militants.
The chaos also comes at a critical time for the government, which has been caught in the middle of increasing US-Iran tensions in the region.
Iraq is allied with both countries and hosts thousands of US troops, as well as powerful paramilitary forces allied with Iran.
The UN envoy for Iraq appealed for an end to the violence and called for those responsible to be held to account.