US urges early Iraq polls as rights group warns of ‘bloodbath’

12 November, 2019 12:00 AM printer

BAGHDAD: The United States has urged Iraq to hold early polls and carry out electoral reform, after a rights group warned a deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters could spiral into a “bloodbath”, reports AFP.

Mass rallies calling for an overhaul of the ruling system have rocked the capital Baghdad and the Shiite-majority south since October 1. Hundreds have died in the violence.

But political forces closed ranks this week to defend the government, and the consensus among the Iraqi elite seems to have paved the way for a crackdown as protesters clashed with security forces.

Three protesters were shot dead in the southern city of Nasiriyah on Sunday, while dozens of demonstrators were wounded in Baghdad.

That brought the toll to 15 protesters killed since Saturday.

Despite the violence, demonstrators tried to regroup on Sunday in Baghdad’s main protest camp at Tahrir Square, while hundreds of others dug in at the nearby Khallani square.

Protesters could be seen trying to bring down large concrete walls that security forces had erected to cut off Tahrir from Khallani. Smoke from tear gas covered Khallani as protesters ran for cover while ambulances and tuk-tuks zipped across the square to evacuate the wounded.