Security forces shut down three vital bridges on Tuesday as anti-government protests continued in Baghdad, with at least three anti-government protesters killed in clashes with security forces in southern Iraq.
More than 260 people have been killed and thousands of others wounded since the protests erupted in October, with security forces using tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition against those taking to the streets.
Most of the deaths took place during the first week of the demonstrations, when snipers shot on crowds from Baghdad rooftops. But after the government appeared to have curbed the use of some deadly tactics, the protests spread rapidly over the past 10 days.
“Appalled by continued bloodshed in Iraq,” United Nations Iraq envoy Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said in a Tweet on Monday.
“Violence only begets violence, peaceful demonstrators must be protected. It is high time for national dialogue.”
The protesters are calling for an overhaul of the political system established after the 2003 US-led invasion, accusing the government and major political parties of corruption and incompetence.
Since putting down an armed uprising by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group in 2017, Iraq has enjoyed two years of comparative stability.
But despite its oil wealth, many Iraqis live in poverty with limited access to clean water, electricity, healthcare or education.