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Death toll rises in Baghdad protests, military declares curfew in Iraqi capital

Demonstrators are seen at Al Jumhuriya bridge during a protest over corruption, lack of jobs, and poor services, in Baghdad, Iraq October 26, 2019.
Demonstrators are seen at Al Jumhuriya bridge during a protest over corruption, lack of jobs, and poor services, in Baghdad, Iraq October 26, 2019. Khalid al-Mousily / Reuters

At least five protesters were killed in protests in Baghdad on Monday, a rights commission said. Meanwhile, the military declared a curfew for the Iraqi capital as students joined the demonstrations.

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Ali Bayati of the Iraqi Human Rights Commission told AFP that with the five additional deaths, the total death toll of the anti-government rallies that erupted across the country earlier this month has now nearly reached 240.

It was not immediately clear how Monday’s protest victims died, but many Baghdad demonstrators have sustained severe trauma wounds from tear gas canisters fired by security forces in recent days.

Also on Monday, Iraq declared a curfew in Baghdad from midnight (2100 GMT) until 6am (0300 GMT).

State TV cited the Baghdad Operations Commander as giving the order, which it said was effective “until further notice”.

Security forces on Monday fired tear gas at school and university students who defied a warning from Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and joined the protests.

Reporting from Baghdad, FRANCE 24’s correspondent Simona Foltyn said that “entire classrooms” of school and university students have joined the protests since Sunday, across southern Iraq.

“The majority of protesters so far have been young men aged between 15 and 25 years and [among] the students who are turning out now, many are very young girls who were at Baghdad’s Tahrir square on Sunday,” she said.

“We met young schoolgirls [there] who were very passionate about their cause, they were chanting ‘We will sacrifice our blood for Iraq’ and are very much determined to stay despite the harsh response by the government.”

A spokesman for Abdul Mahdi, whose position is increasingly precarious as he faces the largest challenge since he came to power a year ago, said on Sunday that anyone disrupting work or school days would be punished.

Mass street protests in Baghdad and other cities in the southern Shiite heartland against economic hardship began at the start of the month and resumed on Friday after a pause of about two weeks.

Thousands of Iraqi protesters gathered in Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square on Sunday, defying a bloody crackdown that had killed scores over the previous two days, and an overnight raid by security forces seeking to disperse them.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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