A night of violent protests in Iraq has led to the country’s death toll climbing to 46 amid days of demonstrations.
Reuters reported that the majority of the deaths have occurred in the capital of Baghdad and city of Nassiriya to the southeast.
Protesters are reportedly demanding the resignation of Iraq’s prime minister, Adil Abd al-Mahdi, and one has accused government forces of shooting live fire at demonstrators in a statement to Reuters TV.
“They are shooting live fire at the Iraqi people and the revolutionaries. We can cross the bridge and take them out of the Green Zone!” the man told Reuters TV.
“Abdul Mahdi, they will cross the bridge. You better resign. Resign. The people demand the fall of the regime!” he added.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest Shiite cleric in the country, urged protesters to remain peaceful in an address read by an aide Friday, according to multiple news reports, while blaming politicians for the unrest.
“The government and the political sides have not fulfilled the demands of the people to fight corruption,” he said in a sermon Friday delivered by an aide, according to the AP.
“It is sorrowful that there have been so many deaths, casualties and destruction,” he reportedly added. “The government and political sides have not answered the demands of the people to fight corruption or achieved anything on the ground. Parliament holds the biggest responsibility for what is happening.”
Authorities in the country have reportedly moved to cut down on internet access as a means of disrupting the protests, which center around issues of unemployment and government corruption, according to multiple reports.
al-Mahdi addressed protesters in a televised address earlier in the day, calling on Iraqis to return to their homes while claiming that their demands had been heard.
“The security measures we are taking, including temporary curfew, are difficult choices. But like bitter medicine, they are inevitable,” he reportedly said. “We have to return life to normal in all provinces and respect the law.”