Four killed, dozens injured in ongoing Baghdad protests

Iraqi PM calls for protests to allow a return to 'normal life'

In Basra, seven protesters were killed in confrontations on Thursday and early Friday, with security forces trying to reopen roads blocked by sit-ins, medical sources said.

The deaths came hours after security forces cleared three flashpoint bridges of protesters, using stun grenades and tear gas amid heavy clashes.

Protesters still occupy part of the Al-Joumhouria Bridge, the southernmost of the capital's bridges and the closest to the main protest camp in Tahrir Square.

Police, the military and paramilitary groups have used live gunfire against mostly unarmed protesters since the beginning of the unrest.

The bridges span the Tigris and give access to the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of government.

The government promised reforms aimed at ending the crisis.

Anti-government protesters set fire and close streets in Baghdad on Saturday.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Saturday that political parties had "made mistakes" in their running of the country, promising electoral reform and other measures as he sought to bring an end to months of protests.

He said the government and the judiciary would continue to investigate all deaths relating to the protests and "pursue all who assault, kidnap, or arrest" outside the law.

"We consider the peaceful protests of our people as among the most important events since 2003", Abdul-Mahdi said in a statement Saturday that vowed to meet the protesters' demands for wide-ranging reforms.

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He added protests were a legitimate engine of political change but urged demonstrators not to interrupt "normal life".

Reports said more than 280 have been killed and thousands injured since the protests began on October 1st. Demonstrators are demanding an overhaul of the political system and decrying corruption in a ruling class that has dominated since the USA -led overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Iraq, exhausted by decades of conflict and sanctions, had enjoyed relative calm after Islamic State was defeated in 2017.

The government has stopped issuing updated tolls. Protesters have tried to force their way across on an nearly daily basis.

Three demonstrators died from bullet wounds and a fourth when a tear gas canister pierced his skull, medics and police sources told AFP.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who only speaks on politics in times of crisis and wields enormous influence over public opinion in Shi'ite-majority Iraq, held security forces accountable for any violent escalation and urged the government to respond as quickly as possible to demonstrators' demands.

In southern Iraq, operations resumed at Umm Qasr commodities port, a port official said, after it was closed for almost 10 days while protesters blocked its entrances.

Umm Qasr receives imports of grain, vegetable oils and sugar shipments that feed a country largely dependent on imported food.

Iraqi medical and security officials say four anti-government protesters were killed and 108 wounded in the capital Baghdad.

The Kuwaiti consulate in Basra said it was withdrawing its staff from the city, amid the deteriorating security situation, a consular official said.

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