Three people were shot dead and dozens wounded in Iraq’s south on Friday, medics said, in clashes between anti-government protesters and supporters of firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr.
The violence erupted as tens of thousands of Sadr supporters hit the streets of Baghdad and therefore the southern city of Nasiriyah during a show of force as preparations build up for June parliamentary elections.
Their turnout overshadowed the rival youth-dominated movement that had erupted in October 2019 but had faded in recent months thanks to geopolitical tensions and therefore the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi has involved early polls to require place in June 2021 — nearly a year before schedule — to fulfil a key demand of last year’s protest movement, which also included Sadrists.
On Friday, followers of the cleric attacked a tent camp of anti-government protesters in Nasiriyah’s Habboubi Square, said Mohammad al-Khayyat, a pacesetter of the anti-government movement.
“Sadrists armed with guns and pistols came to undertake to clear our tents. We fear that more violence could happen ,” Khayyat said.
Medical sources also revealed that almost 50 people had been wounded, nine of whom had suffered bullet wounds.
After initially confirming one dead, medics said two more of the wounded had succumbed to their wounds.
“The security forces clearly did not prevent armed gangs from storming Habboubi Square,” wrote Asaad al-Naseri, an ex-Sadrist based Nasiriyah.
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