In Brief

Anger as security services shoot dead 45 in Iraq

Latest killings come as protesters storm and torch Iranian consulate

Security services in Iraq have shot dead at least 45 people as protesters continued to take to the streets to demand more jobs, an end to corruption and better public services.

On what the BBC describes as “one of the bloodiest days since anti-government protests began last month,” at least 25 people died when security forces opened fire to clear bridges in the southern city of Nasiriya.

Four more protesters died in Baghdad and 10 in the city of Najaf, where demonstrators stormed and torched the Iranian consulate. The Guardian says that development could “mark a turning point in the uprising against the Tehran-backed authorities”.

Tehran has called on Iraqi authorities to respond “firmly and effectively” to protesters who attacked the consulate. Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi expressed “hatred” for the protesters and demanded action.

There has been widespread outrage over yesterday’s killings. Amnesty International's Middle East research director, Lynn Maalouf, said these scenes “more closely resemble a war zone than city streets and bridges”, accusing security forces of “appalling violence against largely peaceful protesters”.

The protests began in October when Iraqis became angered by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s failure to tackle high unemployment, rampant corruption and poor public services.

One demonstrator said he and his fellow protesters see injustice and corruption everywhere in Iraq. “Everything is personal here,” he explained.

At least 350 people have been killed and thousands wounded since the unrest began. CNN says that the scale of the protests, believed to be the biggest since the fall of former President Saddam Hussein in 2003, have taken the government by surprise.

In response to the continuing disorder, the Iraqi military has announced it is setting up military “crisis cells” to quell unrest. The military command said an emergency unit had been created to “impose security and restore order”.

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