Anti-govt protests escalate in Iraq

Baghdad, Jan 20 (IANS) Hundreds of angry Iraqi youths intensified their anti-government protests due to the slow pace of comprehensive reform in the political process demanded by the demonstrators.

On Sunday, hundreds of demonstrators rallied in Tayran and Wathba near Baghdad’s al-Tahrir Square, the epicentre of Iraq’s anti-government protests, and set fire to dozens of tires to block the main roads leading to the rally sites, an Interior Ministry official told Xinhua news agency.

Sporadic clashes occurred with riot police during the day when dozens of demonstrators burned tires to cut off a highway named Mohammed al-Qassim, that links the downtown Baghdad to several neighbourhoods in the east of the capital, the official said.

Riot police fired tear gas canisters and bullets in the air to disperse the protesters, leaving a protester killed and some 30 others injured and suffocated, according to the official.

In southern Baghdad, demonstrations flared in the provinces of Babil, Najaf, Karbala, Dhi Qar, Diwaniyah, Wasit, Maysan and Basra, as protesters blocked the main roads and closed many of the government institutions, according to local media reports.

On January 13, demonstrators in Nasriyah, the capital of Dhi Qar province, and other Iraqi cities announced a period of one week for the political blocs to form a new government to replace the government of caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, otherwise the protesters would block main roads across Iraq and close the government institutions.

Mass anti-government demonstrations have continued in Baghdad and other cities in central and southern Iraq since last October, demanding comprehensive reform, fight against corruption, better public services and more job opportunities.

–IANS
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