Iraq is declaring a curfew in Baghdad starting early on Thursday until further notice, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announced, after two days of nationwide anti-government protests turned violent.
At least seven people were killed and more than 400 were injured during two days of nationwide anti-government protests.
Curfews were imposed earlier in three southern cities while elite counter-terrorism troops opened fire on protesters trying to storm Baghdad airport and deployed to the southern city of Nassiriya after gunfights broke out between protesters and security forces, police sources said.
“Statement from the commander-in-chief of the armed forces: all vehicles and individuals are totally forbidden to move in Baghdad as of 5 am today, Thursday, and until further notice,” Abdul Mahdi said in a statement.
Travelers to and from Baghdad airport, ambulances, government employees in hospitals, electricity, and water departments, and religious pilgrims are exempt from the curfew, the statement said.
Abdul Mahdi said it was up to provincial governors to decide whether to declare curfews in their provinces in Iraq.
The five deaths on Wednesday included two protesters killed in Nassiriya. An Interior Ministry spokesman said a child was killed when a protester threw a gasoline-filled bottle at a vehicle carrying civilians in Baghdad, and a protester was killed in Amara.
The fifth death was that of a protester who died from wounds sustained on Tuesday.
Police and the army opened fire and fired tear gas canisters to disperse hundreds of protesters in Baghdad. Protesters blocked the main highway connecting the capital to Iraq’s northern provinces.
“Our demands? We want work, we want to work. If they do not want to treat us as Iraqis, then tell us we are not Iraqi and we will find other nationalities and migrate to other countries,” said one protester in Baghdad.
Internet access was cut off across much of Iraq, internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said.
“The council affirms the right to protest, freedom of expression, and the protesters’ legitimate demands, but at the same time condemns the acts of vandalism that accompanied the protests,” it said.
Security forces blocked several roads in Baghdad, including a bridge that leads to the fortified Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign embassies.
In an attempt to cool tempers, Abdul Mahdi on Tuesday promised jobs for graduates. He instructed the oil ministry and other government bodies to include a 50 percent quota for local workers in subsequent contracts with foreign companies.
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