Iraqi security forces have detained a number of gunmen in Baghdad and Najaf as fresh protests break out in the capital and the country’s southern cities against economic woes.
Speaking with Iraq’s al-Ahd news network on Friday, Najaf Provincial Governor Luay al-Yassiry said that a gunmen carrying an assault rifle and a sniper rifle was apprehended by security forces while entering Iraq’s Najaf city last night.
In Baghdad, a gunman was stopped by the protesters and handed over to police on Friday after he infiltrated the demonstrations on Tahrir Square to target the security forces and demonstrators there.
The channel also reported that a second gunman was apprehended with the help of demonstrators near Baghdad’s al-Nasr Square.
Images of the arrests were widely circulated on social media.
On Friday, a fresh wave of protests swept across Iraq’s capital and other localities south of the country following a period of calm in the country. The protesters want the government to make meaningful economic reforms and tackle corruption in state institutions.
Similar anti-government protests left over 150 people dead in Iraq earlier in October.
In Baghdad, the protesters attempted to enter the capital’s high-security Green Zone, which hosts government offices and foreign diplomatic missions, prompting clashes with security forces, who in turn responded with tear gas, sound bombs and water cannons.
Scuffles were also reported on Tahrir square.
Iraq’s Interior Ministry has so far confirmed the death of two protesters. Another 337 protesters and 72 security forces have also been injured, according to the ministry.
Citing local sources, however, Iraq’s al-Masalah news network reported about a dozen deaths amid ongoing protests. The network also reported a much larger number of injuries.
Al-Masalah reported that offices belonging to various political factions had been set on fire during the protests.
Not all protests descended into chaos, however. Images circulating on social media showed protesters embracing Iraqi security forces. While other images showed security forces providing aid and water to the demonstrators.
The renewed demonstrations come as a deadline set by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shia cleric ends for the government to respond to the protesters’ demands of economic and political reform on October 25.
Earlier on Friday, Sistani called on protesters and security forces to keep anti-government demonstrations peaceful and be aware of suspicious elements trying to exploit the rightful demands of protesters.