October 9, 2019 / 10:02 AM / 5 days ago

Iraq has a calmer night after a week of protests

BAGHDAD, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Iraq had its calmest night since anti-government protests began more than a week ago over corruption and unemployment.

At least 110 people have been killed and more than 6,000 wounded, in the capital Baghdad and the south, since the security forces started cracking down on the demonstrators.

Much of the unrest has been at night, but on Wednesday morning there were no reports of serious violence overnight.

The security forces pressed on with their crackdown, arresting protesters after nightfall on Tuesday in eastern and northwestern parts of Baghdad, police sources told Reuters.

Police carried recent photographs of protesters to identify and arrest them, the sources said.

Iraq’s semi-official High Commission for Human Rights also said about 500 people had been released from the 800 detained last week.

Intermittent access to internet returned on Wednesday morning, and protesters continued to upload video and photos from the protests. The government shut down coverage almost immediately as protests began, according to an order by the prime minister seen by Reuters.

The offices of local and international media were attacked last week, and journalists have said they were warned not to cover the protests. With the internet down, there was little coverage of the protests on television.

Abdul Mahdi’s government has sought to address the grievances of protesters, who demand the removal of government and a political class they view as endemically corrupt.

Ministers met provincial governors, to address grievances across the country, which include crumbling infrastructure, toxic water and high unemployment. But proposed reforms, some of which have been recycled from a package of proposed reforms after protests in 2015, are unlikely to ease public anger.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the recent violence and urged Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to “exercise maximum restraint” and “address protesters’ grievances”, the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday.

A readout of a call between the two provided by Abdul Mahdi’s office on Monday said Pompeo “expressed confidence in the Iraqi forces.” (Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed and John Davison in Baghdad and Raya Jalabi in Erbil; writing by Raya Jalabi aditing by Timothy Heritage)

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