Protesters continue to demonstrate in capital Baghdad's iconic Tahrir Square as new clashes with the security forces, mainly on the nearby Ahrar Bridge, cause fatalities.

Demonstrators pose for a photo as they take part in ongoing anti-government protests in Baghdad, Iraq. November 21, 2019.
Demonstrators pose for a photo as they take part in ongoing anti-government protests in Baghdad, Iraq. November 21, 2019. (Khalid al Mousily / Reuters)

Iraqi security and hospital officials say one protester has died after clashes with security forces on a strategic bridge in central Baghdad, bringing the death toll following a day of violence to 8.

The officials say security forces hurled smoke bombs at demonstrators late Thursday on Sinak bridge, which leads to the fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq's government.

More than 90 people were wounded so far.

Security and medical officials said three protesters were killed and 24 wounded on Baghdad's Rasheed Street late afternoon following heavy altercations with security forces who used tear gas, sound bombs and live rounds to disperse them. 

The officials said two protesters were killed when tear gas canisters struck them and one was killed by live ammunition. The clashes took place near Ahrar Bridge, the officials said.

Four protesters were killed and some 48 wounded earlier in fighting near the bridge.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. 

Protests at key bridges 

Hospital sources said some of the wounded protesters had injuries sustained from live ammunition and others were wounded by rubber bullets and tears gas canisters.

Protesters have been occupying parts of Baghdad’s three main bridges — Sinak and Ahrar and Jumurhiya — leading to the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government.

Tents have been set up under the bridges and also on central Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the protest movement, where first-aid volunteers treat those wounded by pieces of exploded tear gas canisters and live fire.

"Around 1:30 am (local time), the shooting started with live ammunition, tear gas, and sound grenades," said one volunteer, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisal. 

"There were martyrs and we received several injured people with breathing difficulties and bullet wounds."

Hundreds killed since October

More than 300 people have been killed since the start of mass unrest in Baghdad and southern Iraq in early October, the largest demonstrations since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Deadly use of live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades against mostly unarmed demonstrators have stoked the unrest.

The protests are an eruption of public anger against a ruling elite seen as enriching itself off the state and serving foreign powers, especially Iran, as many Iraqis languish in poverty without jobs, healthcare or education.

The unrest has shattered the relative calm that followed the defeat of  Daesh in 2017. 

Source: AP