Iraqi PM calls for protests to allow a return to 'normal life'

Iraqi riot police fire tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters during clashes in the al Rasheed street in Baghdad Iraq Friday Nov. 8 2019

Iraqi riot police fire tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters during clashes in the al Rasheed street in Baghdad Iraq Friday Nov. 8 2019

The government has stopped issuing figures.

As monitoring the ongoing demonstrations in Baghdad and a number of provinces through its teams, the commission noted that the security forces continued to use live bullets, tear gas and sound bombs to disperse protesters.

Armed units fired canisters that emanated bright purple tear gas at clusters of young protesters along Rasheed Street, one of the city's oldest and most celebrated avenues.

The steady pops of stun grenades echoed throughout nearby districts, many of which have been sealed off. Despite the violence, thousands again flocked to the capital's main protest camp in Tahrir (Liberation) Square on Friday, including members of Iraq's influential tribes.

Anti-corruption protests and a heavy-handed security response have resulted so far in more than 250 deaths.

The officials said the deaths and injuries occurred Saturday afternoon when protests intensified in Baghdad after security forces cleared three main bridges over the Tigris river.

"We put up more barricades so they won't enter Tahrir".

The Iraqi prime minister also said in a statement that new electoral reforms would be announced in the "coming few days".

When the protests erupted, Sadr threw his weight behind them while the Hashed backed the government.

On Friday, a Hashed source told AFP that the network had brought in hundreds of reinforcements to protect government buildings in the Green Zone from any attempt by protesters to storm them.

Amnesty International said it has found the military-grade tear gas canisters were Serbian- or Iranian-made.

Doctors at hospitals have shown Reuters scans of tear gas canisters embedded in the skulls of dead protesters.

And in the southern city of Basra, security forces cleared a protest camp outside the provincial government headquarters.

Police and medics said four people were killed and almost 100 wounded in Baghdad on Saturday. The demonstrators complain of widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services, including regular power cuts despite Iraq's vast oil reserves.

And on Saturday parliament convened to discuss reform proposals, including hiring drives and increased welfare payouts.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, who only speaks on politics in times of crisis and wields enormous influence over public opinion in Shiite-majority Iraq, held security forces accountable for any violent escalation and urged the government to respond as quickly as possible to demonstrators' demands.

The premier's position looked precarious when the mass rallies began but top leaders appear to have reached a consensus he would stay.

Officials and analysts fear that militants could exploit unrest to sow more chaos in Iraq, which has suffered decades of conflict, sanctions and corrupt governance.

On Friday, around a dozen rockets hit the Qayyarah base - an Iraqi military installation where U.S. troops are stationed near the northern city of Mosul - according to local sources.

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