Report: 25 dead, 130 wounded in shooting targeting Iraqi protesters

Officials have confirmed that at least 25 people were killed and 130 others wounded when one or more gunmen took aim at Iraqis assembled in Baghdad early Saturday morning to protest Iranian influence over their government, The Hill reported.

Power was cut to the area, causing protesters to flee into nearby buildings because they couldn’t see where the shots were coming from. A parking lot in the area that served as a base for the protests was also set on fire around the same time as the shooting.

Three of the people killed were law enforcement personnel, while the rest were protesters, according to CBS News.

The shooting occurred in the area of Baghdad’s Khilani Square and Sinak Bridge, where the longstanding uprising has been centered.

A series of attacks

Iraqi security forces blanketed the area Saturday as protesters blamed Iranian militias for the shooting and other recent attacks on protesters.

The shooting followed a series of knife attacks on Thursday as supporters of the Iran-backed militias attempted a counterprotest, but then withdrew. No one has been arrested in the knife attacks.

In addition, influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who supported the protests, said that a drone targeted his home in Najaf on Saturday. The head of al-Sadr’s party, Nassar al-Rubaie, reportedly spoke out against the drone attack and called for an emergency session of parliament to discuss the protests and violence. 

On Thursday, Washington sanctioned members of Asaib al-Haq, a powerful Iran-backed militia accused of being behind deadly sniping attacks on protesters. Those sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury include leader Qais al-Khazali; his brother, Laith al-Khazali, who is a commander in the group; and Husain Falih Aziz al-Lami.

Reaching their boiling point

The shooting was the deadliest in Iraq since Oct. 1, when “security forces used live rounds of ammunition and tear gas” to break up the newly launched protests, according to The Hill.

“The people of Iraq are at a boiling point,” said Sa’ad Maye al-Hilfi, a member of the Iraqi Parliament’s Defense and Security Committee, which planned to hold an emergency meeting on Sunday, according to The New York Times.

Acting Iraqi President Barham Salih said the shooting of the protesters was “a criminal, armed attack carried out by criminal and outlaw gangs.” He further called for security forces to “chase the outlaw criminals and arrest them and bring them to the judiciary for punishment.”

Witnesses said the shooting lasted about three hours, according to Canada’s Global News. The gunmen remain at large.

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