Death toll rises to 104 amid anti-government protests in Iraq

Oct. 7 (UPI) — Iraqi officials said at least seven people died in Baghdad Sunday, raising the death toll from clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces to 104.

“As many as 104 people, including eight security members, were killed and at least 6,000 others injured in ongoing protests in Iraq,” Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Saad Maan said during a press conference.

Maan said that demonstrators on Sunday set fire to 51 public facilities and eight political party headquarters.

Protests erupted in the Middle Eastern country on Tuesday in demand of jobs, economic reform and an end to government corruption. However, protesters were confronted in Baghdad by security forces who opened fire with live rounds and tear gas.

Authorities have since instituted a curfew and cut Internet access. On Sunday, Netblock reported that Internet to most of the country had been down for over 100 hours.

In a move to appease protestors, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi announced on Saturday a 17-point plan that consisted of promises to construct more houses and offer aid to the unemployed.

However, protesters took to the streets again Sunday when they said they were again met with live fire from security forces, who also raided several news outlets that reported on the unrest.

U.N. secretary-general for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, condemned the attacks by “masked gunmen” on TV studios, calling on the government to protect journalists.

“Free media is the best safeguard of a strong democracy,” she said via Twitter.

Hennis-Plasschaert has called the protesters’ demands “legitimate” and action is required by the government to “revive public trust.”

On Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on both sides to start a dialogue and U.N. High Commission for Human Rights spokeswoman Marta Hurtado told the Iraq government that the protesters have a right to demonstrate.

“We call on the Iraqi Government to allow people to freely exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” she said. “The use of force should be exceptional, and assemblies should ordinarily be managed without resort to force.”

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