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Several people killed in attack on Baghdad protest camp

Unidentified gunmen kill at least 12 anti-government protesters, police and medical sources say
Iraqis take part in an anti-government demonstration in Baghdad's Tahrir Square on 6 December (AFP)

Unidentified gunmen killed at least 12 anti-government protesters in Baghdad, police and medical sources said.

The attack came late on Friday, when armed men took over a large building that protesters had been occupying for several weeks near al-Sinek bridge in the capital, the AFP news agency reported.

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Witnesses told the news agency that gunmen in pick-up trucks attacked the building and forced the protesters from it.

Dozens more were wounded in the attack, according to the news agency.

It was not immediately clear if the gunmen belonged to any political or militia groups.

Protesters had feared an escalation of violence after supporters of the pro-Iran Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force descended on Tahrir Square on Thursday.

Three demonstrators and a witness told the Associated Press that at least 15 knife attacks took place in Tahrir Square, and that the pro-militia groups withdrew from the area later that day.

Protests against corruption, unemployment and a lack of public services have rocked Baghdad and the country's south since 1 October.

More than 430 demonstrators have been killed and tens of thousands wounded in a crackdown by Iraq's security forces.

Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said he would resign amid the months-long protest movement. Still, the announcement has done little to quell the protests. 

Earlier on Friday, the United States blacklisted three Iran-backed, Iraqi paramilitary leaders over their alleged role in the deaths of anti-government protesters.

Washington said the sanctions were part of an effort to counter Iranian influence in Iraq. 

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