At least two protesters have been killed and dozens of others wounded after Iraqi protesters and security forces clashed near two key bridges in the capital, Baghdad, security and medical sources said on Thursday.
The cause of death in both cases was tear gas canisters aimed directly at the head, sources told the Reuters News Agency.
One protester was killed near Sinak bridge and the other near the adjacent Ahrar bridge, police said.
Hospital sources told the agency that some of the wounded protesters had injuries sustained from live ammunition and others were wounded by rubber bullets and tears gas canisters.
Meanwhile, the AFP news agency said one of the protesters was shot dead, quoting sources.
Rights groups have slammed security forces in Iraq for firing the military-grade gas grenades directly at protesters instead of up in the air.
When shot at close range, the canisters can pierce demonstrators’ skulls or chest, and advocacy groups have documented approximately two dozen such deaths.
The overnight confrontation also injured more than 50 people, including at least six who sustained gunshot wounds.
Authorities fear crowds could use the Al-Sinek bridge to reach the Iranian embassy in Baghdad and cross the adjacent Al-Ahrar bridge, further north, to protest at the Central Bank and other government buildings.
Protesters in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square have criticised Tehran for propping up an Iraqi government they see as corrupt and inefficient, even accusing it of backing the use of violence against them.
More than 330 people have been killed since the protests broke out on October 1, according to an AFP toll, as authorities have stopped providing updated or precise figures.