Pro­test­ers in Iraq ramp up pres­sure as dead­line ex­pires

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Bagh­dad, Iraq - Thou­sands of Iraqi anti-gov­ern­ment pro­test­ers grap­pled with se­cu­rity forces in a bid to shut streets across the coun­try on Mon­day, a dead­line they had given authoritie­s to im­ple­ment long-awaited re­forms.

Ral­lies have rocked Iraq since Oc­to­ber but fear­ing they would lose mo­men­tum amid spi­ralling re­gional ten­sions pro­test­ers on last Mon­day told the gov­ern­ment it had one week to meet their de­mands or they would es­ca­late.

They have called for early elec­tions un­der a new vot­ing law, an in­de­pen­dent prime min­is­ter to re­place out­go­ing premier Adel Ab­del Mahdi and for all cor­rupt of­fi­cials to be held ac­count­able.

Late on Sun­day young pro­test­ers be­gan seal­ing off high­ways and bridges across the cap­i­tal Bagh­dad and Iraq’s south, torch­ing tyres and set­ting up makeshift bar­ri­cades.

They tried to do the same early on Mon­day in the cap­i­tal but se­cu­rity forces acted fast, with the mil­i­tary say­ing it had re­opened a ma­jor Bagh­dad thor­ough­fare and ar­rested nine young men who had at­tempted to seal it off.

Ahead of Mon­day’s dead­line, pro­test­ers also sought to ramp up pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment with pop-up ral­lies out­side of their main gath­er­ing place in Bagh­dad’s iconic Tahrir (Lib­er­a­tion) Square.

Hun­dreds de­scended on nearby Ta­yaran Square, where they clashed with se­cu­rity forces who fired tear gas and live rounds to dis­perse them, a jour­nal­ist said. Young men wear­ing hel­mets and gas masks to pro­tect them­selves from fly­ing gas can­is­ters erected bar­ri­cades to try to push riot po­lice back. Skir­mishes lasted through­out the night, wound­ing around 20 peo­ple in­clud­ing some with gun­shot wounds, a med­i­cal source said.


Iraqi se­cu­rity forces (back­ground) and pro­test­ers clash at Ta­yaran Square, east of Tahrir Square in the cen­tre of Bagh­dad on Mon­day

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