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Anti-government protests leave three dead, hundreds wounded in Iraq

BADHDAD, Iraq: At least three people were killed and over 200 wounded in Iraq as police clashed with anti-government demonstrators on Tuesday.

Thousands of people, including university students, took part in the rallies across the country to protest against unemployment, corruption and inadequate services.

World Bank cites the youth unemployment rate at around 25%.

The protests were organized through social media which began with a peaceful gathering of around 3,000 people in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square (Liberation Square).

The demonstration has been the biggest so far against the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi since he assumed power in late 2018.

“The problem is that parliament is a bunch of gangs that have divided up everything amongst themselves,” Abbas Fadel, 30, told media during the protest.

Protesters chanted “those thieves robbed us!” as they waved the Iraqi flag in the air.

Transparency International report ranks Iraq as the 12th most corrupt country in the world.

In a bid to disperse protesters, security forces used rubber bullets, water cannons, stun grenades and tear gas which led to violent clashes.

Over 40 security force officials were wounded during the confrontation as per the reports by the Iraqi health ministry.

The government accused “groups of riot inciters” for the violence and said the security officials were trying to ensure the safety of the peaceful protesters.

Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights Director Mustafa Saadoon blamed anti-riot police in Baghdad for using “excessive force and tear gas against the protesters that resulted in the death of three protesters and the wounding of more than 250”.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi had conducted a cabinet meeting in Baghdad to discuss “directives aimed at creating new job opportunities for Iraqi university graduates”.