Published: Sat, December 07, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Iraqi official says 15 protesters killed in Baghdad

Iraqi official says 15 protesters killed in Baghdad

Following the sermon, thousands of protesters traveled to Baghdad from across southern Iraqi provinces and marched on Tahrir Square, including from Dhi Qar, Diwanieh, Karbala, Najaf, Babylon and Missan, security officials said, chanting the slogan "Sistani, we are his soldiers".

The attack Friday was among the deadliest since October 1, when thousands of Iraqis took to the streets calling for sweeping political reforms and the end of Iran's influence in Iraqi affairs.

The protests lead to a number of clashes with security forces, who used live fire, sonic bombs and tear gas to disperse the crowds.

The gunfire continued until the early hours of Saturday.

Witnesses told AFP news agency that gunmen in pick-up trucks attacked the building and forced the protesters from it.

Anti-government activists have sought to blame supporters of Iran-backed Iraqi militias, which have staged similar attacks against protester sit-ins in the capital and the country's southern cities.

Friday's deadly attack came hours after Washington imposed sanctions on three Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary leaders whom it accused of directing the killing of Iraqi protesters.

They also target Hussein Falih al-Lami, security chief for the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), Iraq's state umbrella group of paramilitary factions, which is dominated by groups backed by Iran, including Asaib.

The move comes as President Donald Trump's administration, which considers Iran an arch-enemy, voices alarm at rising attacks on USA forces' bases in Iraq blamed on armed Shiite groups backed by Tehran's clerical regime.

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The three militia leaders were designated under a U.S. law that will ban them from travel to the United States and seize any assets they have in the country.

Iraq's two main allies, the United States and Iran, have acted as power brokers in Iraq since the 2003 US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, has resigned over the protests but those who have taken to the streets want a fundamental overhaul of the country's political system.

At least 400 people have died since the protests in Iraq began on October 1, as thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to decry corruption and calling for an end of the political system that was put in place following the 2003 US invasion. President Barham Salih launched talks immediately after Abdul-Mahdi's resignation by making rounds with different political blocs Iranian General Qassim Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force and the architect of its regional security apparatus, also came to Baghdad to meet with key officials.

David Schenker, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, warned that more sanctions could come, including against government officials.

"It is unorthodox and it is incredibly problematic and it is a huge violation of Iraqi sovereignty", Schenker told reporters.

Schenker did not rule out imposing sanctions on more Iraqis including government officials.

Three among the dead were policeman and the rest were protesters, the officials said.

Iraq's two main allies, the United States and Iran, have acted as power brokers in Iraq since the 2003 US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, although Tehran's allies have mostly dominated state institutions since then.

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