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15 killed in Baghdad square as assailants fire live rounds

  • FILE - This handout photo from the office of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani shows senior Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf on March, 13, 2019. At least 13 people were stabbed Thursday, Dec. 5, in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Iraq’s protest movement, security and medical officials said, stoking fears of infiltration by unknown groups among anti-government demonstrators. The protesters aligned with parties had marched to Tahrir earlier that day, mostly young men clad in black and waiving Iraqi flags. They chanted positive slogans in deference to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most powerful Shiite cleric, and stood conspicuous against the usual crowds of Tahrir protesters. (Office of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, via AP)

Published: 12/6/2019 3:39:26 PM
Modified: 12/6/2019 3:39:13 PM

Gunmen in cars opened fire Friday in Baghdad’s Khilani Square, leaving at least 15 people dead and 60 wounded, Iraqi security and medical officials said. At least two of the dead were policemen.

Protesters fearing for their lives ran from the plaza to nearby Tahrir Square and mosques to take cover. It wasn’t immediately clear who did the shooting.

The attack came as anti-government demonstrators occupied parts of Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahar bridges in a standoff with security forces. All the bridges lead to or near the heavily-fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government.

“We are under live fire now with electric power cut, the wounded and martyrs are here and the bullets were fired in Sinak Bridge,” said one protester, who did not give their name for fear of retaliation.

The attack came a day after a string of suspicious stabbing incidents targeting demonstrators left at least 13 wounded in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Iraq’s leaderless protest movement.

Those attacks by unknown perpetrators occurred as demonstrators supporting political parties and Iran-backed militias withdrew from the Square . The incidents Thursday fueled paranoia among protesters, who immediately implemented self security measures to uncover saboteurs within the square.

At least 400 people have died since the leaderless uprising shook Iraq on Oct. 1, with thousands of Iraqis taking to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite southern Iraq decrying corruption, poor services, lack of jobs and calling for an end to the political system that was imposed after the 2003 U.S. invasion.

Security forces dispersed crowds with live fire, tear gas and sonic bombs, leading to fatalities. Pressure from the protests, now in its third month, lead to the resignation of Abdul-Mahdi last week following al-Sistani calling for parliament to withdraw its support for his government.




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