BAGHDAD — Anti-government protesters in Iraq stormed a fourth bridge Wednesday in central Baghdad, where security forces pushed them back with batons and tear gas, wounding dozens, and a medic was killed near another bridge while aiding demonstrators.
The military called on the protesters to stop blocking roads and ports, saying they had cost Iraq $6 billion, and it vowed to arrest those responsible. The U.S. Embassy urged the government to “engage seriously and urgently” with the demonstrators and condemned attacks on them.
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks in the capital and across the Shiite south to demand sweeping political change. The protesters complain of widespread corruption, a lack of job opportunities and poor basic services, including regular power cuts despite Iraq’s vast oil reserves.
The protesters have focused their anger on Shiite political parties and militias, many of which have close ties to Iran. Across the south, they have attacked party and militia headquarters, setting some of them ablaze.
In the Shiite holy city of Karbala, protesters attacked the Iranian Consulate earlier this week, hurling firebombs over its walls. Security forces killed at least three people as they dispersed the protest.
In Baghdad, protesters clashed with security forces on a fourth bridge over the Tigris River after previous clashes forced the closure of three other spans, paralyzing much of the city. The protests have been centered in Tahrir Square, on the eastern bank of the Tigris, and the demonstrators have been trying to reach the Green Zone, which houses government offices and foreign embassies on the other side of the river.
As protesters moved toward the Martyrs’ Bridge, north of the other three, they passed near the central bank. Iraqi security forces were deployed in large numbers around the bank and evacuated employees, but the protesters did not target the building.
Security and medical officials said at least 29 people were wounded after being hit with batons or exposed to tear gas on or near Martyrs’ Bridge. They said a medic was killed near the Al-Ahrar Bridge, which has seen heavy clashes in recent days, and another was wounded. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Print Headline: Iraq unrest persists; medic among dead