Iraqi security forces shot and killed 40 protesters in a 24-hour span as violence shows no sign of abating in Baghdad and southern Iraq.
The Associated Press reported that much of the unrest occurred across southern Iraq, where authorities killed 36 protesters and wounded 245 after protesters burned the Iranian consulate in Najaf. Another four protesters were shot dead in Baghdad, the capital city.
The government’s harsh response has the potential to cause violence to spiral further out of control.
Iraqis first took to the streets last month to protest government corruption, unemployment and the lack of basic services and have called for a complete overhaul of the ruling political class, saying it is too closely aligned with Iran.
The United Nations has accused the government and security officials of human rights violations and abuses, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has strongly condemned Baghdad’s handling of the situation.
“The Secretary deplored the death toll among the protesters as a result of the Government of Iraq’s crackdown and use of lethal force, as well as the reports of kidnapped protesters,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said of a recent call the secretary had with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi.
Crisis committees have been established to boost coordination between al-Mahdi and and governors in provinces affected by the protests “for the importance of controlling security and enforcing the law,” the joint operations command said in a statement.
At least 350 people have been killed by security forces in total thus far, according to the AP.