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Iraq imposes curfew in Baghdad amid ongoing anti-government protests

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Iraqis wave national flags as they take part in an anti-government demonstration in Karbala, Iraq, on October 28, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Iraq has imposed a curfew in the capital Baghdad as renewed anti-government protests which were initially peaceful but later turned deadly entered a fourth day.

The curfew hours are from midnight to 6 a.m. local time until further notice, state television quoted the Baghdad Operations Commander as saying on Monday.

The curfew came after students and schoolchildren joined protests in Baghdad and cities in southern Iraq, defying the education minister who had warned them against partaking in the unrest.

Iraq's education minister had asked students and education staff to steer clear of the unrest, saying Sunday that academic life should "stay away" from protests.  

In Baghdad on Monday, demonstrators gathered on campuses and in Tahrir Square.

The government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has pledged to fulfill protesters' demands while finding the elements that have infiltrated the protests to stir unnecessary violence.

Meanwhile, a rights commission official said five protesters have been killed in Baghdad as anti-government demonstrations turned violent.

“It was unclear how they had died, but many in Baghdad in recent days have sustained severe trauma wounds from tear gas canisters fired by security forces,” said Ali Bayati of the Iraqi Human Rights Commission on Monday.

Anti-government protests made a return in Iraq on Friday, as thousands of people once again took to the streets to vent their anger over corruption and less than optimal living conditions.

The protests soon turned deadly as armed elements opened fire on both protesters and security guards. Iraqi security agents have so far arrested a few gunmen and the country's elite Counter -Terrorism Force has been deployed to the streets to prevent damage to sensitive centers.

So far, at least 67 Iraqis have been killed and hundreds more wounded in the second bout of unrest targeting Abdul-Mahdi's government.

More than 150 people, including security forces, were killed when the protests first erupted earlier this month.

Iraq’s most prominent Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has also called on Baghdad to probe the deaths in the previous round of unrest and address people's demands.

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