Iraqi Forces Open Fire on Third Day of Basra Clashes


A day after six people were killed in southern Iraq's Basra city, violent protests over poor government services continued with security forces opening fire after new clashes.

Protesters in Basra told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that live ammunition and tear gas were fired by security personnel at hundreds of demonstrators outside the regional government headquarters in the oil-rich province.

At least one demonstrator was taken to hospital after being hit in the head by a tear gas canister. An overnight curfew was imposed and more security personnel deployed in the city, an army official said.

Basra and surrounding areas have been the focus of angry demonstrations over alleged government neglect that have rocked Iraq since early July.

Residents in Iraq's second-largest city are particularly angry over pollution of the water supply, which, they allege, has hospitalised more than 20,000 people.

On Tuesday, six demonstrators were shot dead and 20 wounded when hundreds of people gathered to mourn the death of a protester killed a day before.

The Iraqi army on Wednesday blamed "unidentified gunmen" for the death of the six demonstrators.

"The protesters slain yesterday in downtown Basra were killed by unknown gunmen in a car," army commander Jamil al-Shammari said in a statement a day after the massacre.

Al-Shammari denied reports Iraqi security forces fired on protesters outside provincial headquarters but went on to assert that the demonstrations "were not entirely peaceful in nature".

"Security forces were surprised to find a group of demonstrators throwing Molotov cocktails, burning tires and attacking citizens," he said.

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