BAGHDAD – Clashes between police and protesters killed 11 people in Baghdad on Saturday in a new flare-up of anti-government unrest, as security forces deployed in their hundreds to keep demonstrations away from central squares in the Iraqi capital.
Police and medical sources reported the casualties after days of violence around anti-government protests, bringing the toll in Baghdad and other cities this week to at least 88.
The new clashes shattered a day of relative calm after authorities lifted a curfew and traffic moved normally in the center of the city. One square where protesters had gathered in their hundreds in previous days was packed with hundreds of policemen and other security personnel.
The unrest is the deadliest Iraq has seen since the declared defeat of Islamic State in 2017 and has shaken Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s year-old government.
The government has responded to demands for jobs, better services and an end to endemic corruption with vague reform promises that are unlikely to placate Iraqis.
Opposition to the government among parliamentary groupings who have begun boycotting legislative meetings is gathering pace, putting pressure on Abdul Mahdi and his cabinet to step down.
But powerful political parties which have dominated Iraqi politics since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and toppling of dictator Saddam Hussein have not yet indicated they are willing to relinquish the institutions they control.
In eastern Baghdad on Friday and Saturday, police snipers shot at demonstrators and several people were wounded, Reuters reporters said.
Iraq’s semi-official High Commission for Human Rights put the toll at 94 dead since protests broke out on Tuesday. Reuters could not verify its figures. Security services said the violence killed 8 members of the security forces and wounded more than 1,000, state television reported.