Baghdad, Jan 21 (IANS) Two members of the Iraqi security forces and three protesters were killed in clashes that erupted during anti-government rallies in Baghdad and the southern province of Basra, in which another 75 people were injured.
Two of the members of a military unit acting under the flag of Basra’s Operational Command were run over while firing on protesters who had blocked a roadway on Monday, a source inside the command told Efe news.
Protesters tried to cut the road leading to the ports of Umm Qasr and Khawr az-Zubayr as well as the oil fields located in the western part of the province.
Security forces used tear gas to disperse protesters, leaving 25 of them suffering from breathing problems, the source added.
Clashes also erupted in Baghdad, where three people were killed including an activist named Yusuf Sattar, while over 50 people were adversely affected by tear gas, an Interior Ministry source told Efe news.
Demonstrators also gathered on Tahrir and Tayaran squares, as well as on other plazas that have become epicentres for rallies since the protests first began on October 1, 2019.
On January 17, the anti-government protests gained momentum once again after being temporarily suspended earlier this year in the wake of the US-Iranian tensions on Iraqi soil.
The parliamentary blocs have yet to agree on a candidate to succeed Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who resigned in late November in the wake of the protests.
At least 500 people have died and more than 25,000 have been injured since the beginning of the mass demonstrations, according to figures released by the independent Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights.
In addition to clamouring for a new non-sectarian and efficient government, protesters are also demanding better public services and economic opportunities in the oil-rich country in which 23 per cent of the population lives in poverty.