‘We’ll step up our struggle!’ – vow Iraqi protesters after 5 killed

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Iraqi youth on the streets of Baghdad

AT LEAST five demonstrators have been killed in Baghdad, Karbala and Baqubah in Iraq as security forces opened fire on the mass protest of young people who have risen up demanding a complete overhaul of the political system.

Iraqi protesters vowed to continue their escalation until demands for an independent prime minister and snap elections are met, as deadly violence surged in Baghdad and several key southern cities.

Two protesters were killed in the capital’s Tayaran Square in the early hours of Monday after security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas to disperse angry crowds, officials said. Another protester was killed in Baghdad later in the day.

Two died after being struck by live rounds fired by security forces and the third after a tear gas canister pierced his neck, they said.

Witnesses said a photojournalist and a volunteer paramedic in his 20s were among the dead. The paramedic was shot in the head by live-fire and died at the scene.

‘Yusuf’s injury was quite severe. His head was visibly damaged and he was in critical condition,’ said Diaa, 34, an ambulance driver at the scene. ‘He died right there.’

According to a statement by the National Union of Iraqi Journalists, the other victim Sattar was taking photos near Kilani Square when he was shot.

Family members and protesters later gathered in central Baghdad to pay their respects at his funeral procession.

A fourth protester was also killed in the southern city of Karbala after he was shot in the chest. A video of the unidentified man showed him in an ambulance as a paramedic attempted to resuscitate him.

The fifth demonstrator died in Baqubah, 50km (31 miles) to the northeast of Baghdad, but details of his death were not immediately available.

In addition to the deaths, at least 100 others were wounded in the violence in Baghdad and Iraq’s south. The Iraqi government did not confirm the number of deaths or injuries.

The violence came as security forces stormed the main highways and squares after protesters gathered to decry the government’s lack of response to their demands.

Last Monday, demonstrators gave the government a week’s deadline to respond to key demands, which included the appointment of an independent prime minister and holding snap elections under a new electoral law.

As the deadline expired at midnight, protesters geared up for further escalations to express their anger. They sealed off main highways and roads inside and around the city, setting tyres on fire, turning back cars and putting up metal barriers to seal off central areas.

‘We plan to keep going, cutting off more of the large highways and roads. Our aim is to bring the city to a complete standstill so the government responds to our demands,’ Hussein Hassaan, a 30-year-old protester near Baghdad’s Tayaran Square said. ‘We’ve managed to bring all movement on Mohamed Qassem highway to a complete stop and we will do the same across the whole city.’

Haider Mohsen, 28, pledged to do the same. ‘We’ll continue to protest until we have a new electoral law and until Parliament appoints an independent prime minister. We want someone who represents us, not the political parties in power,’ he said.