Iraq protesters keep up rallies despite pressure from riot police

Baghdad: Iraqi security forces shot live rounds to clear protests in Baghdad and the south for a second day on Sunday, but thousands of determined students flooded the streets to keep up their movement. Violence has resurged in the capital and Shiite-majority south this week, with more than 15 people killed as anti-government activists ramped up their road closures and sit-ins while security forces sought to snuff out the campaign.

On Saturday, four demonstrators were shot dead as riot police stormed protest camps across the country, according to medics, stoking fears of a broader crackdown. But thousands of students rallied on Sunday, waving Iraqi flags and holding up two fingers in a victory sign. “Only for you, Iraq!” read a sign held by a young protester in the shrine city of Karbala, hinting at the movement’s insistence on not being affiliated with any political party or outside backer.

In Basra, hundreds of students gathered to condemn the riot police’s dismantling of their main protest camp the previous day, according to an AFP correspondent. They also led the way in Kut, erecting new tents to replace those taken down the previous day, and in Najaf, blocking off main roads with burning tyres.

In Baghdad, university students marched from a campus in the city centre to the main rally area of Tahrir Square. Riot police fired live rounds and tear gas at clusters of young protesters in the nearby Khallani and Wathba squares, but protesters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails to keep them back. At least 17 protesters were wounded, a police source said.

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Security forces have stopped short of entering Tahrir Square itself, where many tents have been dismantled but remaining protesters have pledged to stand their ground. In the southern city of Nasiriyah, security forces Sunday also fired live rounds to disperse protesters who were angered by authorities pushing them out of roads around their main protest camp in Habbubi Square.At least 75 protesters suffered bullet wounds and around 100 were impacted by tear gas in brief skirmishes, a medical source told AFP.



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