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Two Demonstrators Killed In New Flare-Up Of Iraqi Antigovernment Protests

Iraq has been shaken by months of anti-government and anti-Iranian protests that have led to the deaths of hundreds of people. (file photo)

At least two demonstrators were killed and 24 others hurt during clashes with security forces in central Baghdad in a new flare-up of protests against the country’s political elite and widespread corruption.

Security sources told Western news agencies that one protester was killed on January 17 as demonstrators attempted to cross the strategic Sinek Bridge in the center of the capital.

Security forces fired tear gas as they sought to prevent protesters from crossing the bridge, with one canister hitting a demonstrator in the chest and killing him.

Iraq late last year was shaken by three months of mostly leaderless anti-government and anti-Iranian protests that led to the deaths of hundreds of people and injuries to some 25,000 amid a violent crackdown by authorities.

Protesters have demanded sweeping political reform, better job opportunities, improved public services, and the elimination of foreign influence in the country, along with the resignation of the governmental leaders.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi was forced out by the public pressure, although he has said he will remain on in a caretaker capacity.

In recent days, the protests have been overshadowed by the January 3 killing of a senior Iranian commander, Major General Qasem Soleimani, in a U.S. air strike in Baghdad, sparking concerns that Iraq could become the battle ground in a conflict between Washington and Tehran.

Iran on January 8 fired a series of ballistic missiles at Iraqi military bases that were hosting U.S. and other international troops, further raising tensions.

Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has blamed the government for the "bloodshed" during the recent unrest on Iraqi streets.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, and dpa