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IRAQI security forces mounted concrete barriers in central Baghdad today as they sought to prevent protesters accessing government buildings.
Authorities had already cleared three bridges over the River Tigris. Demonstrators had confronted troops trying to stop them crossing into the Green Zone, the heavily fortified area demarcated by invading US troops in 2003 as the headquarters of their illegal occupation, which has since become the site of most government and state offices.
A bridge demolition on Friday was claimed to be a controlled explosion necessitated by the discovery of a bomb on its underside, but most protesters see the collapse as a deliberate step to cut off movement. On Saturday, security forces drove demonstrators from three central bridges in an operation that killed six, bringing the death toll since protests began at the start of last month to more than 260. Amnesty International declared: “This bloodbath must stop now.”
Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi claimed to “consider the peaceful protests of our people as among the most important events since 2003” in a Saturday speech that also offered protesters “an important government reshuffle.” But this did not quell the demonstrations, which are demanding his resignation and an end to corruption, action on rampant joblessness and improved services.
The Communist Party of Iraq is calling for an emergency government to address the crisis and investigate the brutal response of security forces and government-aligned militias to the demonstrations.
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