Iraqi officials: 1 protester killed amid ongoing clashes

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi officials said one anti-government protester has been killed by security forces on Tuesday and 21 others wounded amid ongoing clashes with security forces in Baghdad.

Demonstrators also burned tires cutting roads across southern Iraqi provinces.

Security and hospital officials said the protester died when he was struck with a rubber bullet fired by security forces on Rasheed Street near the strategic Ahrar Bridge. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Protesters, most of them balaclava-clad Iraqi youth, carried the dead demonstrator, his face covered in blood, away from the scene of the fighting to a tuk tuk — a three-wheeled motorcycle transport — for medical help.

Over 350 people have died and thousands more wounded since Oct. 1, when thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to decry rampant government corruption, poor services and scarcity of jobs. The demonstrations have become the largest grassroots protest movement in Iraq’s modern history.

Protesters are occupying part of three key bridges — Jumhuriya, Ahrar and Sinak — in a standoff with security forces. At least 17 protesters have died in renewed clashes, which kicked off last Thursday. The historic Rasheed Street, known for its crumbling architecture, has been a flashpoint in the recent violent escalations.

Security forces have used live ammunition, tear gas and rubber bullets to repel protesters from scaling a barricade.

In the oil-rich southern provinces of Nassiriya and Basra, protesters burned tires and blocked roads. Similar tactics were also employed by protesters in Babylon, and the holy areas of Karbala and Najaf.

A senior official in Iraq’s oil ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of regulations, said the road closures had not impacted oil production but had caused them to alter oil workers’ schedules because of difficulty getting to and from the oil fields.

The previous evening, protesters had set fire to two government buildings in Nassiriya and the home of a lawmaker.

A protester in Basra also died on Tuesday due to wounds sustained four days earlier.

The leaderless uprising seeks to dismantle the country’s post-2003 political system. Iraq’s protests stand in stark contrast to similar anti-government protests gripping Lebanon, where security forces have taken pains to protect anti-government protesters.

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