Five Iraqi protesters killed in clashes with police in Nasiriyah

Hundreds have been injured in the city close to where Pope Francis is due to visit on March 6

Anti-government protesters carry a mock coffin during a demonstration calling for the resignation of governor Nazem al-Waeli, and against deteriorating public services, in Iraq's southern city of Nasiriyah in the province of Dhi Qar on February 26, 2021. Four anti-government protesters were killed in clashes with Iraqi security forces in Nasiriyah, medics said, the deadliest day in a week of violence in the southern city. Protesters have defied a second wave of coronavirus infections and renewed lockdown measures to vent their anger at the government over poor public services. / AFP / Asaad NIAZI
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Security forces in Nasiriyah, in southern Iraq, have been accused of using lethal force against protesters, with five killed and over 100 injured in recent days.

Most fatalities were from bullet wounds, a hospital source said, adding that about 120 protesters had been wounded.

At least 57 members of the security forces were injured, according to another hospital source and a security source.

The clashes in the city in Dhi Qar province continued on Friday evening after days of violence.

In response to the continuing violence, Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi appointed a new provincial governor in Dhi Qar on Friday and called for calm.

The prime minister's office said Mr Al Kadhimi asked retired army general Abdul Ghani Al Asadi, the head of the National Security Agency, to take up the governor's post. He also launched an investigation into the cause of the recent violence, it said.

The clashes erupted on February 21 when security forces fired to disperse protesters who were trying to storm the provincial government building using rocks and petrol bombs.

Protesters are demanding the removal of the governor and justice for protesters killed since 2019.

Iraq's biggest anti-government protests in decades broke out in October 2019 and continued for several months.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis demanded jobs, improved services and the removal of the ruling elite, whom they accused of corruption.

Nearly 500 people were killed, and the protests led to the resignation of Adel Abdul Mahdi as prime minister.

Mr Al Kadhimi, who took office in May 2020, has pledged justice for activists killed or abused by armed groups. But no prosecutions have occurred so far.

The clashes come just a week before Pope Francis visits Iraq from March 5 to 8.

He is due to tour the ancient Mesopotamian site of Ur, only about 20 kilometres away from Nasiriyah.


Gallery: Ongoing protests in Nasiriyah, southern Iraq