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Middle East

Erdogan should be prosecuted over Syrian offensive: former UN investigator

Erdogan should be prosecuted over Syrian offensive: former UN investigator

BAGHDAD: Several hundred demonstrators gathered in central Baghdad on Saturday, brandishing Iraqi flags and calling Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi a “worm”, after a day of violent protests in which at least 46 people were killed.

Some 200 of the protesters had camped out overnight in the capital’s central Tahrir Square, and were cleaning up the area. Others read verses from the Qur’an to mourn those killed.

Eight protesters were killed in Baghdad on Friday, most of them after being struck by tear gas canisters launched by security forces trying to control the crowds.

Across the country, at least 40 protesters died, as demonstrators vented their frustration at political elites who they say have failed to improve their lives after years of conflict and economic hardship.Parliament was set to meet on Saturday in an emergency session to discuss protesters’ demands.”The government has been stealing from us for 15 years. Saddam went and 1,000 Saddams have been hiding in the Green Zone,” a young protester, who declined to be named, said on Friday, referring to the former Iraqi dictator.The Green Zone is the central government zone of Baghdad that was closed to the Iraqi public for many years.

The Interior Ministry praised what it called the restraint shown by security forces on Friday.”The security forces secured the protection of demonstrations and protesters responsibly and with high restraint, by refraining from using firearms or excessive force against demonstrators,” the ministry said in a statement on Saturday.In Iraq’s mainly Shiite southern provinces, which saw violence overnight as protesters clashed with Iranian-backed Shiite militias, the situation was calmer on Saturday, with a curfew still in place across most urban areas.

However, the heads of powerful Iraqi paramilitary factions threatened they would take “revenge” on Saturday after their offices in the south of the country were torched during deadly protests.Demonstrators set fire to dozens of government buildings and offices belonging to the influential Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary force across southern cities late Friday.In Missan province, the headquarters of the Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, one of the Hashed factions, was torched and a leading commander of the group reportedly killed.Wissam Al-Alyawi was later pronounced dead by the group, after footage circulated online showing him writhing in an ambulance as a crowd of men tried to break into it.Asaib chief Qais Al-Khazaali was in Baghdad on Saturday for the funeral procession of Alyawi and his brother Issam, apparently killed in the same incident.”His blood is on America and Israel’s hands, but I will take revenge – many times over,” Khazaali told mourners, holding back tears as he stood next to their wailing mother.”This blood is proof to all our people of the size of the conspiracy that is targeting us,” he said.Dozens of Hashed fighters were gathered in military fatigues for the procession in central Baghdad, just a few districts south of where protests were taking place in Tahrir (Liberation) Square.

The latest bloodshed was the second major bout of violence this month. A series of clashes two weeks ago between protesters and security forces left 157 people dead and over 6,000 wounded.More than 2,000 people were injured nationwide in those protests, according to medical sources and the Iraqi High Commission on Human Rights (IHCHR).

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