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Grand ayatollah calls for restraint after further killings in Iraq

IRAQ’S Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on security forces today to avoid using excessive force after another day of deadly violence.

Masked men attacked demonstrators in Basra on Thursday evening, killing five people and wounding 120. Over 250 people have now been killed since protests began at the start of October. 

The ayatollah, Iraq's most senior Shi’ite cleric, said the protests were an opportunity “to respond to people's demands ... to put an end to a long period of corruption.”

He also called on protesters not to direct their anger at the country’s many armed militias, many of which are linked to Iran, saying: “If peaceful protests and strikes are possible today away from the terrorists’ harm, it is thanks to these heroic men.” The words were unlikely to appease demonstrators, given the savage clampdown that has met attempts to protest peacefully.

The Sinak bridge over the River Tigris was demolished today. State TV said experts had found a bomb under the bridge and carried out a controlled explosion. The bridge was a daily flashpoint for clashes between protesters seeking to enter the fortified Green Zone and security forces trying to stop them.

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