Violence claims lives at Baghdad protest rally

The protests began before noon when thousands of people, mainly followers of the influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, rallied in Tahrir Square on the eastern bank of the Tigris River which bisects Baghdad, demanding a change in the Independent High Electoral Commission, and arguing that the electoral body is under the influence of leading parties.

A police officer has been killed and numerous protestors have been wounded during clashes in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Saturday (11 February).

Shots rang out in the centre of the city as security forces used live fire and tear gas to disperse the crowds.

Reuters reported the death of the police officer however details of the death are not yet clear.

The demonstrators, who had gathered early on Saturday, received a de facto green light to escalate the protest in the shape of a statement from the Najaf-based Sadr.

Riot police fired tear gas when the crowd tried to move towards the zone, which also houses global organisations and the homes of prominent politicians.

An Associated Press news agency team at the scene of Saturday's rally saw ambulances carrying away protesters suffering from breathing difficulties.

Mr Mustafa said he would not offer his resignation and accused Mr al Sadr of using the commission as a political "scapegoat".

Officials say the protesters attempted to breach Baghdad's Green Zone, home to most of Baghdad's foreign embassies and the seat of Iraq's government.

But Sadr, a mercurial Shiite cleric who once led a rebellion against USA occupation but has more recently spearheaded an anti-corruption protest movement, urged Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi not to turn a deaf ear.

Sadr suspects that members of the electoral commission are loyal to his Shia rival, Nouri al-Maliki, former prime minister and one of the closest allies of Iran in Iraq.

  • Leroy Wright