Officials say three protesters were shot dead while the fourth one was killed by a tear gas canister. About 108 demonstrators were wounded in the clashes as embattled PM Adil Abdul Mahdi calls for "return to normal life."

Iraqi demonstrators clash with Iraqi security forces during the ongoing anti-government protests in Baghdad, Iraq November 9, 2019.
Iraqi demonstrators clash with Iraqi security forces during the ongoing anti-government protests in Baghdad, Iraq November 9, 2019. (Reuters)

Iraqi forces killed at least four anti-government protesters and wounded 108 others in capital Baghdad, Iraqi medical and security officials said on Saturday, despite calls for calm by the embattled prime minister. 

Officials said the deaths and injuries occurred on Saturday afternoon when protests intensified in Baghdad after security forces cleared three main bridges over the Tigris river.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said three protesters were shot dead while the fourth was killed by a tear gas canister that hit him in the head.

Earlier in the day, Iraqi security forces were firing live ammunition at protesters in central Baghdad, hours after they cleared three flashpoint bridges of anti-government protesters

Protests important for reform

Earlier, Iraq's Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi said protests were important in bringing about reform but life must be allowed to "return to normal," as protests continued in Baghdad where Iraqi forces retook key bridges from the demonstrators.

"The protests have helped and will help pressure political groups, the government ... to reform and accept change. However, continuing protests must allow for a return to normal life, which will lead to legitimate demands being met," he said in a statement.

Abdul Mahdi also said new electoral reforms would be announced in the "coming few days."

Bridges recovered from protesters

Iraqi security forces wrested back control of three bridges in the heart of Baghdad that had been partially occupied by anti-government protesters in recent days, AFP news agency reported.

They retook the Al Sinek, Al Shuhada and Al Ahrar bridges over the River Tigris that link the east bank, where the main protest camps are located, with neighbourhoods on the west bank that are home to government offices and foreign embassies.

Amid volleys of tear gas, security forces chased demonstrators back onto Al-Rasheed Street, one of Baghdad's oldest and most celebrated thoroughfares.

Protesters still occupy part of Al Jumhuriyah (Republic) Bridge, the southernmost of the capital's bridges and the closest to the main protest camp in Tahrir (Liberation) Square.

Over the past two weeks, demonstrators had spilt over from the square, first taking over part of Al Jumhuriyah Bridge before creeping north onto the other three.

But the government ordered the security forces to keep them back, as Al Jumhuriyah Bridge leads into the Green Zone where parliament and the British and US embassies are located.

Al Sinek Bridge provides access to the embassy of Iran, a target for protesters who accuse Iraq's eastern neighbour of propping a government they regard as irredeemably corrupt.

Al Ahrar (Free Men) and Al Shuhada (Martyrs) bridges lead to the prime minister's office and state television headquarters.

Nearly 300 deaths 

Security forces have fired tear gas and both live and rubber bullets to keep the protesters back. They have even fired machine guns.

The sound of tear gas canisters and stun grenades reverberated around central Baghdad nightly over the past week.

Fired at point-blank range, the canisters have pierced protesters' skulls and chests, killing at least 16 of them, according to the United Nations.

Amnesty International said it has found the military-grade tear gas canisters were Serbian- or Iranian-made.

Nearly 300 people have been killed in protest-related violence since demonstrations erupted on October 1 and swiftly spread from Baghdad to cities across the south, according to an AFP toll.

The government has stopped issuing updated tolls.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies