By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA | Associated Press |
BAGHDAD — Security forces fired live rounds and tear gas at anti-government protesters in a central Baghdad square Friday, killing three people, in bloody confrontations that continued despite an influential Shiite leader’s call for calm.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani emphasized support for the demonstrators in his weekly religious sermon, saying none of their demands have been met so far and that electoral reform should be a priority. He called for a new election law that would restore public confidence in the system and give voters the opportunity to bring “new faces” to power.
At least 320 people have been killed and thousands have been wounded since the unrest began on Oct. 1, when protesters took to the streets in the tens of thousands outraged by what they said was widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services despite the country’s oil wealth.
Renewed clashes broke out in Khilani square Friday afternoon. Soldiers and riot police began firing live rounds and tear gas at hundreds of protesters who removed concrete barriers and streamed into the square. Iraqi security and medical officials said three protesters were killed and at least 25 others wounded.