After the key political forces have agreed to settle the crisis in Iraq, security forces across the country have cracked down on the protest movement. In Baghdad on Saturday, security forces were pushing protesters from several occupied bridges.
At least five people have been shot dead by security forces, according to police and medical professionals. More than 150 people were reportedly injured.
Political actors behind Mahdi
Previously, the leading political figures in Iraq, according to information from negotiating circles behind the last heavily controversial Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi had asked and approved in return for reforms a crackdown on the protest movement.
With massive use of tear gas, the security forces in Baghdad regained control of the Tigris bridges Al-Sinek, Al-Shuhada and Al-Ahrar, reporters reported. The three bridges connect the protest camps on the eastern Tigris shore with the western riverbank, where government offices and foreign embassies are based.
The Al-Sinek Bridge has been the most important connection of the demonstrators to the embassy of Iran. Parts of the protest movement accuse the neighboring country of supporting the government in Baghdad, to which they accuse corruption. The bridges Al-Ahrar and Al-Shuhada lead to the office of the Prime Minister and the headquarters of the state television.
On Al Rashid Road, one of the main arteries in Baghdad, there were heavy clashes. "After driving us off the bridge, they started throwing stun grenades in our direction," said a protester, who had wrapped his face in a black scarf.
Protesters held Al-Jumhuriyah Bridge
Next occupied protesters initially held the Al-Jumhuriyah bridge. The "Bridge of the Republic" is the southernmost bridge in the Iraqi capital. It is closest to the main protest camp on central Tahrir Square. In the other direction, it leads into the so-called green zone, where, among other things, the British and US embassies are located.
Also in the south of the country, security forces used force against protesters. In Karbala, the tents of camping demonstrators left nothing but ashes after the security forces fired tear gas at the camp. In Basra, security forces released a protest camp. According to doctors, the operation killed three people and injured dozens more.
After days of talks, the long-disputed Iraqi political forces had agreed to support Mahdi, the head of the government under pressure from the protests. They agreed, according to high-ranking politicians, on the need for reform and for ending the protest movement.
The powerful commander of the Iranian al-Quds forces, Kassem Soleimani, has won two important supporters for the Mahdi government in talks in Najaf, sources said. These are the populist preacher and politician Moktada al-Sadr and the son of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Mohammed Reda Sitan. As a result, the political forces would have given the government a free hand to end the protests "by all means". They would also have agreed on reforms that should be discussed on Saturday evening in the Iraqi parliament.
In Baghdad and several southern Iraqi cities, a protest movement against corruption and high unemployment had formed in the country at the beginning of October. Despite the escalation of violence and nocturnal curfews, Iraqis continue to take to the streets and demand the overthrow of the government. According to an AFP count, nearly 300 people have been killed since the protests began on October 1. The government has recently published no more current figures on deaths. (APA)