2 Baghdad protesters dead after violent clash with police
Two protesters died in Baghdad early on Monday after being shot with tear gas canisters in confrontations with security forces, medics said, the first victims of protest-related violence under Iraq’s new premier.
The deaths threaten to reignite a country-wide protest movement that erupted in October over government graft and incompetence. The protests had died down in recent months.
There were angry rallies staged on Sunday over power outages in the capital and several southern cities, where temperatures soaring above 50 degrees Celsius have overwhelmed electricity generators.
In Baghdad – at the protest hub of Tahrir Square – police and other security forces clashed with protesters.
“Two protesters died this morning. One was shot with a tear gas canister in the head, and another in the neck,” a medical source told AFP on Monday.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi’s office acknowledged “unfortunate events” in protest squares, but insisted security forces had been instructed not to use violence unless absolutely necessary.
His office said an investigation would be carried out into Sunday’s events to hold those responsible to account.
But online, Kadhemi is already being compared to his predecessor Adel Abdel Mahdi, who stepped down last year after months of protest-related violence.
An estimated 550 people were killed in that wave of rallies and 30,000 injured, many of them by military-grade tear gas canisters that can pierce human skulls if fired directly.
There was virtually no accountability for the deaths under Mahdi. But Kadhemi has promised to publish a list of all the victims, carry out investigations and open a dialogue with protesters.
A cartoon shared online showed a caricature of Abdel Mahdi handing over tear gas canisters to his successor.
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