Iraqi security forces cracked down on anti-government protesters in the strife-torn south Thursday, leaving 13 people dead in a bloody escalation hours after the torching of an Iranian consulate.
According to AFP, Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, as commander in chief of the armed forces, dispatched military chiefs to several restive provinces to “restore order” there, the military said in a statement.
Iraq’s capital and its south have been torn by the worst street unrest since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, as a youth-dominated protest movement has vented their fury at their government and its backers in neighbouring Iran.
Late Wednesday protesters burnt down the Iranian consulate in the city of Najaf, yelling “Victory to Iraq!” and “Iran out!”, in an attack condemned by Tehran which voiced its “disgust”.
Iraq’s death toll in the street clashes since early October has risen above 360 with over 15,000 wounded according to an AFP tally, as authorities are not releasing updated or precise figures.
Protesters burning tyres and throwing rocks and petrol bombs have clashed with security forces unleashing tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and live rounds.
The latest clashes erupted on Thursday in the protest hotspot of Nasiriyah, where security forces cleared protesters off two main bridges they had been occupying for days.
At least 13 protesters were shot dead and 100 wounded with several in critical condition, medical and security sources said.