Iraq tense as toll rises to 81

Clashes between police and protesters killed five people in Baghdad on Saturday in a resumon 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 that killed at least 81 people in Baghdad and other cities earlier this week.

Officials from Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s office met protest leaders from Baghdad and other provinces to discuss their demands, state television reported. Mr. Mahdi and President Barham Salih said they would seek to meet the demands, but gave no details how exactly they would respond.

Meanwhile, curfew in Baghdad was lifted.

The country’s Parliament Speaker proposed on Friday improving public housing for the poor and job opportunities for young people, as well as holding those who had killed protesters to account.

The unrest is the deadliest that Iraq has seen since the declared defeat of Islamic State in 2017 and has shaken Mr. Mahdi’s year-old government. The government has responded with vague reform promises that are unlikely to placate Iraqis.

The semi-official High Commission for Human Rights said security forces had detained hundreds of people for demonstrating but then let most of them go. It said more than 3,000 people had been wounded in days of violence.

Police snipers shot at demonstrators and several people were wounded in eastern Baghdad, Reuters reporters said. Police also fired live rounds at demonstrators in the southern city of Nassiriya, where at least 18 people were killed this week.

The security forces have accused gunmen of hiding among demonstrators to shoot at police. Several policeman have died.

The protests over unfair distribution of jobs, lack of services and government corruon erupted on Tuesday in Baghdad and quickly spread to other Iraqi cities, mainly in the south.

A curfew in Dhi Qar province, where protesters were also killed this week, was ordered by local authorities starting from 1 p.m.

Powerful Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has a mass popular following and controls a large chunk of parliament, demanded on Friday that the government resign and snap elections be held. At least one other major parliamentary grouping allied itself with Mr. Sadr against the government.

Parliament was set to meet on Saturday to discuss protesters’ demands. Mr. Sadr’s bloc has said it will boycott the session.

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