BAGHDAD – Iraqi security forces opened fired on anti-government protesters gathering in Baghdad Friday for a fourth day of demonstrations against unemployment, poor public services and corruption.
The security forces fired directly at the protesters, not in the air, an AFP correspondent said.
No casualties have been reported.
Earlier, Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi during a televised address to the nation called on protesters to go home, saying their “legitimate demands” had been heard.
Abdul-Mahdi sad that the security measures, including the temporary curfew imposed were “difficult choices” but they were needed like “bitter medicine” that had to be swallowed.
At least 31 people have been killed in protests since Tuesday and hundreds of others have been wounded. The demonstrations have spread in Baghdad and in areas south of the capital.
Six people were killed during anti-government protests Thursday.
Police and medical officials said the protesters were shot to death in Nasiriyah, a city south of the capital of Baghdad.
Iraqi security forces used tear gas and fired live bullets Thursday to disperse protesters in Baghdad.
In addition, authorities have deployed water cannons and rubber bullets to try to break up the crowds.
A police officer and hundreds more have been injured since the protests began.
There were widespread reports of internet outages Thursday.
The protests are the first major challenge to Abdul-Mahdi, who formed his government a year ago.
The government blamed the violence on “groups of riot inciters” and said security forces worked to protect the safety of peaceful protesters.
Iraq’s parliament has ordered a probe into the violence.
Many Iraqi citizens blame politicians and government officials for the corruption that has prevented the country from rebounding from years of sectarian violence and the battle to defeat Islamic State militants who at one point controlled large areas in the northern and western part of the country.
At his weekly Cabinet meeting earlier this week, the prime minister released a statement promising jobs for graduates. He also ordered the oil ministry and other government agencies to apply a 50 percent quota for local workers in future contracts with foreign countries.