Iraqis block vital roads and bridges in Baghdad as internet cut again

Funeral of a killed protester Abbas Qassim 17 passes through Tahrir Square Baghdad Iraq Saturday Nov. 2 2019. Qassim was killed during anti-government ongoing protests his family said

Iraqi protesters block roads, shut down offices, schools

The first week of rallies ended with at least 157 people dead, majority protesters shot dead in Baghdad, according to a government probe.

Reuters reported last week that a powerful political party had contemplated withdrawing support for Abdul Mahdi but chose to keep him in power for now after holding a secret meeting in Baghdad attended by a general from Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

Iraqi law enforcement said that they had "dealt" with a group of protesters who had set fire to a restaurant, after crossing a main bridge over the Tigris, according to a spokesman for the prime minister.

The report, titled "Demonstrations in Iraq: update, 25 October - 4 November 2019", said a total of 97 protestors were killed amid the second wave of demonstrations storming capital Baghdad, central and southern territories of the country.

The protesters have blocked roads and ports and have clashed with security forces on bridges leading to Baghdad's Green Zone, the seat of power. Iraqi security forces were deployed in large numbers around the bank and evacuated employees, but the protesters did not target the building.

Iraqi security forces shot dead three protesters and wounded 19 when they dispersed a violent demonstration outside the Iranian Consulate in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, police officials said Monday. The protests are calling for an overhaul of the political system established after the 2003 USA -led invasion, accusing the government and major political parties of corruption and incompetence.

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Iraq has close but complicated ties with its eastern neighbour Iran, with whom it fought a deadly war in the 1980s but which now has significant political and economic sway in Iraq. A broader crackdown on the protests "would backfire on them in a massive way". In the 24 hours to late Tuesday, security forces shot dead at least 13 protesters.

Abdul-Mahdi has expressed support for the protesters' demands and condemned violence on all sides while resisting calls to step down.

He met with senior judicial and security officials at the Federal Police Headquarters late Monday to discuss ways to restore stability while preserving the right to protest and to protect private property, according to a government statement.

Iran's allies in Iraq appear to have adopted a similar response.

"The Iranians and the parties affiliated with Iran harm us".

"They already cut the internet once, and doing it again won't do anything", said Ammar, a 41-year-old protester in Tahrir on Tuesday. That could provoke a similar backlash against the US, which still has thousands of troops in Iraq and is also widely seen as having meddled in the country's affairs.

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More than 15 years after the USA -led invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein, Baghdad and other cities still see frequent power cuts, the tap water is undrinkable and public infrastructure is crumbling.

Political leaders in Iraq and Lebanon have yet to offer concrete proposals to meet protesters' demands.

The embattled Iraqi government has only been in power since October 2018.

In the meantime, Iran has sought to keep its alliances intact. A relative of the outspoken writer, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said heavily armed masked gunmen snatched him from his apartment in a dawn raid.

"Shutting down three bridges means shutting down half of Baghdad", he said.

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