LONDON - At least 27 people have been killed and hundreds injured following anti-government protests this week in Iraq's capital, Baghdad, and other cities.
Security forces opened fire on demonstrators close to the center of the capital, where a number of casualties occurred. A curfew has been imposed and the internet cut off in several regions in an attempt to restrict access to social media, which the government blames for fanning the protests. The United States and the United Nations have urged authorities to exercise restraint.
A few hundred protesters defied a government curfew Thursday on the streets of Baghdad as security forces fired tear gas and warning shots.
"Even with the curfew, I swear to God we will not retreat. We are demanding our simplest rights," said Abu al-Qassim, a young protester from Baghdad.
Those rights remain ill-defined among the apparently spontaneous demonstrations that have erupted in unison in cities across Iraq, in both Shi'ite and Sunni areas. The protests are rooted in Iraq's stuttering economy and weak government. Many demonstrators cite a lack of jobs and basic services.
Iraqi forces declared victory over Islamic State in 2017. Two years later, there is frustration at the lack of progress.
Iraq's post-IS future was the subject of a debate this week at London's non-profit Chatham House, attended by representatives of the three main ethnic and political blocs Sunni, Shia and Kurd. Prime ministerial advisor Laith Kubba said the defeat of Islamic State can still be a turning point.
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