Oct. 4 (UPI) — Iraqi security forces used live ammunition, water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters in Baghdad Friday, killing at least 42 people and injuring hundreds more.
The spontaneous protests were focused on Baghdad’s Tahir Square and throughout the south, which is mostly Shiite. They were triggered by widespread unemployment, corruption and a lack of basic infrastructure, including water and electricity.
Protesters called for the government to step down.
At least 15 people are dead and 200 injured in Dhi Qar, provincial council member Hassan al-Asadi said.
The roads leading to Tahir Square were closed and the Republican Bridge that leads to the Green Zone was also shut down Friday.
The International Committee of the Red Cross issued a statement Friday saying it’s concerned by the violent clashes between protesters and security forces.
“The use of force by security forces must be proportionate to the situation and is an exceptional measure,” the International Red Cross’ head of delegation in Iraq Katharina Ritz said. “In particular, firearms and live ammunition must only be used as a last resort, and to protect against an imminent threat to life.”
More protests are expected after Friday prayers.
Iraqi Prime Minister Abil Abdul-Mahdi said in a speech Friday morning that protesters have legitimate complaints but there’s no magical solution to resolve their grievances.
“The security measures we are taking, including temporary curfew, are difficult choices,” he said. “But like bitter medicine, they are inevitable. We have to return life to normal in all provinces and respect the law.”