Iraqi forces retake key bridges from protesters

An anti-government protester throws a stone at security forces during clashes in the al Rasheed street in Baghdad Iraq Friday Nov. 8 2019. The dem

Officials have stopped providing updated figures.

Three of the dead were shot, and the fourth died after being struck on the head with a tear gas canister.

As the violence flared, Abdul Mahdi issued a statement which appeared to take a more conciliatory tone and urged a return to normal life after weeks of unrest that have cost the country tens of millions of dollars, although crucial oil exports have not been affected.

As monitoring the ongoing demonstrations in Baghdad and a number of provinces through its teams, the commission noted that the security forces continued to use live bullets, tear gas and sound bombs to disperse protesters.

A total of 23 protesters and security forces members have been killed and more than 1,077 injured amid ongoing demonstrations in Baghdad and southern provinces of Iraq from November 3 to 7, the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights said Friday, Trendreports citingXinhua.

They have rejected government proposals for limited economic reforms, and instead called on the country's political leadership to resign, including Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi.

He made his remarks as security forces were trying to push protesters back from several major bridges in Baghdad that had been occupied for days.

The demonstrators, mostly unemployed youths, demand an overhaul of the political system and a corrupt ruling class which has dominated state institutions since the USA -led overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Almost 300 people have died in protest-related violence since rallies erupted on October 1, spreading from Baghdad to cities across the south.

"They agreed to end the protests with any means possible and to reopen the bridges and shuttered streets", the official said.

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Abdel Mahdi, 77, came to power a year ago through a shaky alliance between populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Hadi al-Ameri, a leader of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary network.

"Those meetings resulted in an agreement that Abdel Mahdi would remain in office", the source said. Snipers from Iran-backed militias that have participated in the crackdown were deployed last month, Reuters reported.

The source also told AFP news agency that Soleimani met Mohammed Ridha Sistani, the son of Iraq's top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

One protester said that the security forces had instructed the protesters to "go home".

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.

"Even if the bridges and most of the roads are closed, people are driving all the way around from far-away areas to reach Tahrir", one protester said proudly.

"Our situation as protesters is not good, but we'll stay until we find a solution", said another protester.

Oil-rich Iraq is OPEC's second biggest producer, but one in five people live in poverty and youth unemployment stands at 25 percent, according to the World Bank.

Protesters say the current framework allows political parties to dole out government jobs based on affiliation and bribes, choking out independents in a country with a weak private sector.

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