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Iraq: Protesters killed in clashes with security forces in Nasiriyah

At least five demonstrators have been killed over the past week as activists defied a Covid-19 lockdown to take to the streets
Iraqi protesters are pictured next to burning tyres during clashes with police during anti-government demonstrations in the city of Nasiriyah in the Dhi Qar province in southern Iraq on 10 January 2021 (AFP)

Three Iraqi demonstrators were killed on Friday in clashes with security forces in the southern city of Nasiriyah, as anti-government protests continued for another day.

Medics told AFP the deaths brought to five the number of demonstrators killed over the past week in the city, while dozens of people have also been injured in the violence.

Protesters have defied a second wave of coronavirus infections and renewed lockdown measures to keep up a long-running anti-government movement in the capital of Dhi Qar province.

On Thursday, they tried to gather outside the main governorate building in Nasiriyah to demand the dismissal of governor Nazem al-Waeli over a deterioration in public services.

They threw stones at security forces, who fired shots in the air to try to disperse the crowds, an AFP correspondent on the scene said.

A 25-year-old protester was fatally shot, medics said, while 26 protesters and 10 security forces were wounded. 

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The new clashes came just days after similar rallies outside the governorate that left a young teenager dead. 

Decades of war, government corruption and a dearth of investment have left Iraq's water, electricity and other public works in a pitiful state.

Many households have only a few hours of mains electricity per day and complain of polluted tap water. The resulting anger has sparked huge protests in the past.

In late 2019, public frustration over poor services, unemployment and corruption morphed into an unprecedented anti-government movement across southern Iraq, as well as in the capital Baghdad.

Nearly 600 people have been killed in protest-related violence since then, including in mass violence at demonstrations but also in targeted assassinations.

The demonstrations had almost entirely died down over the last year but have been bubbling up again in Nasiriyah.

The renewed violence comes less than two weeks before Pope Francis is set to visit Dhi Qar province as part of the first-ever papal trip to Iraq.