Protesters Killed in Baghdad

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More than a dozen demonstrators died in the capital Baghdad and the southern port city of Basra within 24 hours, medical sources said on Friday.

More than 250 people have been killed since protests began on October 1.

In Basra, seven protesters were killed in confrontations on Thursday and early Friday, with security forces trying to reopen roads blocked by sit-ins, medical sources said.

Anti-government protesters again block the port of Umm Qasr, Iraq, on Thursday.

Fresh clashes between Iraqi security forces and anti-government protesters broke out on Friday killing at least three people, despite a call for calm by the country's top Shi'ite cleric, as authorities grapple with the nation's biggest crisis in years.

Live fire is still being used and even tear gas canisters, fired directly at protesters' bodies instead of being lobbed into crowds, have killed at least 16 people, New York-based Human Rights Watch said yesterday. The bridge was a daily flashpoint for clashes between protesters seeking to enter the fortified Green Zone and security forces trying to stop them. "We don't know who took them", he said.

Khazaali and Ameri are leading commanders in the Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary network, which has publicly backed the government after protests erupted.

Numerous protests have been directed toward the heavy foreign influence in the country, including that of neighboring Iran, which has supported the Shi'ite militias in Iraq that helped defeat IS.

On Friday, a Hashed source said that the network had brought in hundreds of reinforcements to protect government buildings in the Green Zone from any attempt by protesters to storm them.

HRW also urged Iraq's global partners, including the US, European countries, and Iran, to end assistance to units involved in violations against protesters and publicly condemn the actions of the security forces.

According to the report, one Reuters video clip reviewed by HRW appeared to show a member of the security forces firing a tear gas canister directly at a group of protesters only a short distance away on a flat trajectory, suggesting intent to harm rather than to disperse.

Amnesty International said it has found the military-grade canisters were Serbian- and Iranian-made. Many activists have been arrested and in recent days, there have been reports that people have disappeared, apparently by force.

Stipends for the poor, more job opportunities for graduates and pledges to punish a handful of corrupt officials have come too late for those demanding an overhaul of state institutions, a flawed electoral process and system of governance that has fueled endemic corruption, many Iraqis say. It also ranks 12th most corrupt country in the world, according to several organizations that monitor transparency. Driven by economic grievances, the demonstrations have also exposed long-simmering resentment at the country's powerful Shiite political parties and militias with close ties to Iran.

Abdul Mahdi's position looked precarious at the start of the popular protests, as the two sponsors of his government seemed to agree on his ouster.

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