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Security Forces Shoot At Baghdad Protesters, Several Killed In Karbala

Updated

An Iraqi protester tries to climb the concrete wall of the Iranian Consulate in Karbala on November 3.

Security forces opened fire on an anti-government protest in Baghdad on November 4, hours after four demonstrators were shot dead outside the Iranian Consulate in the holy city of Karbala.

It was the latest in a wave of violent incidents that marred the campaign of civil disobedience waged by angry Iraqis who accuse the government of rampant corruption and clientelism.

About 12 people were wounded in Baghdad when riot police shot at protesters massing near the state television headquarters, according to witnesses and security sources.

It was the first time live rounds were fired at protesters in Baghdad since demonstrations resumed on October 24, following a period during which security forces had to use tear gas amid accusations of "excessive force."

In Karbala, protesters attacked the Iranian Consulate amid a series of protests in which participants have directed their anger over corruption and unemployment at the country's political elite and criticized Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs.

Witnesses said protesters on November 3 pulled down the Iranian flag, replacing it with the Iraqi flag.

Amateur video footage circulating online showed protesters throwing what appeared to be Molotov cocktails over the wall of the consulate.

Four protesters were killed and 12 were wounded in clashes with security forces, the independent Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights reported on November 4.

There was no immediate reaction from Iranian officials.

The demonstrators have been protesting high unemployment, poor public services, and widespread corruption in the oil-rich country.

More than 250 people have been killed in the protests, which have taken place mainly in Baghdad and in the southern Shi'ite-majority regions.

Videos posted online last week showed protesters with banners picturing Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the chief of the elite Quds Force, General Qassim Soleimani, with their faces crossed out.

Shi'ite Iran has wielded influence in Iraq since dictator Saddam Hussein's ouster following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, and it backs powerful Shi'ite militias in the country.

Meanwhile, the United States still provides Iraq with military, political, and financial aid, and Baghdad has attempted to balance its ties to both the United States and neighboring Iran.

Iraq's prime minister on November 3 appealed to protesters to help restore normal life across the country and said the unrest was costing the economy "billions of dollars."

Adil Abdul-Mahdi said in a statement that the protests, which "shook the political system," had achieved their purpose and must stop affecting the country's trade and economic activities.

"Threatening the oil interests and blocking roads leading to Iraq's ports is causing big losses exceeding billions of dollars," he said, warning that unrest was pushing up prices of goods.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and The Wall Street Journal
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