Iraqi protesters clash with police in Al-Khilani square in the capital, Baghdad, January 26 2020. Picture: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP
Iraqi protesters clash with police in Al-Khilani square in the capital, Baghdad, January 26 2020. Picture: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP

Baghdad — Iraqi security forces fired tear gas and live bullets in clashes on Sunday with protesters who resisted with stones and petrol bombs,  witnesses and security sources said.

More than 100 protesters were hurt, including at least 75 in the southern city of Nassiriya, in the renewed violence in Baghdad and other cities after the security forces tried to clear sit-in protest camps, medical sources said.

The protesters are demanding the removal of what they consider a corrupt ruling elite and an end to foreign interference in Iraqi politics, especially by Iran, which dominates state institutions.

Unrest resumed last week, after a lull of several weeks, following the US killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and an Iraqi paramilitary chief in Baghdad in January.

The killing, to which Iran responded with ballistic missile attacks on two Iraqi military bases, has revived tensions in Iraqi politics and delayed the formation of a new government.

Tuk tuks evacuated wounded protesters in clouds of tear gas and black smoke from burning tyres.

Unconfirmed reports said four people were killed on Saturday when security forces tried to clear a protest camp in Baghdad.

Earlier on Sunday, hundreds of university students had gathered in Tahrir square, the main protest camp, chanting slogans against the US and Iran.

In Nassiriya, protesters set fire to two security vehicles and hundreds of other demonstrators controlled the city's main bridges, a witness said. A police source described the situation in Nassiriya as tense and critical.

In the southern city of Basra, more than 2,000 students arrived at a protest camp, another Reuters witness said.

Protests also continued in the cities of Kerbala, Najaf and Diwaniya, defying attempts by security forces to end their months-long sit-in, police sources and Reuters witnesses said.

In other violence, five Katyusha rockets landed on Sunday night in Baghdad's Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign embassies, a military statement said. There were no immediate reports of casualties but sources said the rockets landed near the U.S. embassy.


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