Iraq security forces clash with protesters in Baghdad and other cities
Baghdad (Reuters) – Iraqi security forces fired teargas and live bullets in renewed clashes with protesters in Baghdad and other cities on Sunday, Reuters witnesses and security sources said.
The security forces tried to clear sit-in camps across the country and fired live rounds in the air after protesters resisted with petrol bombs and stones. At least 14 protesters were wounded in the capital and at least 17 were wounded in Nassiriya in the south, medical sources said.
Demonstrators are seeking the removal of what they see as a corrupt ruling elite and an end to foreign interference in Iraqi politics, especially by Iran, which has come to dominate state institutions since dictator Saddam Hussein was toppled in a 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Populist Shi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr had called for demonstrations against the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and other cities on Sunday but cancelled them, with his office giving “avoiding internal strife” as the reason.
Tens of thousands had protested against the U.S. military presence in Iraq in a march on Friday that was called after the U.S. killing of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani and an Iraqi paramilitary chief in Baghdad this month.
Sadr, who has millions of supporters in Baghdad and the south, said on Saturday he would end his involvement in anti-government unrest.
“We protest because we have a cause. I don’t think Moqtada Sadr or any other politician will change our mind,” said a protester in Baghdad who declined to give his name.
Sadr’s supporters have bolstered the protesters and at times have helped shield them from attacks by security forces and unidentified gunmen, but began withdrawing from sit-in camps on Saturday following his announcement.
Security forces then removed concrete barriers near Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, where demonstrators have camped out for months, and across at least one main bridge over the Tigris River.
“I don’t go to protests often but I came out today because of what they did yesterday. I want to express my solidarity with my brothers in Tahrir,” said Hussain Ali, a student.