Protesters have hit the streets since early October in the largest grassroots movement Iraq has seen in decades, sparked by fury at poor public services, lack of jobs and endemic government graft, AFP reported.
The decentralized demonstrations were met with violence from security forces and armed groups, leaving more than 420 people dead and 15,000 wounded according to an AFP tally compiled from medics and an Iraqi rights commission.
The toll spiked dramatically this week, when a crackdown by security forces left dozens dead in Baghdad, Najaf and the southern hotspot of Nasiriyah – the birthplace of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi.
Facing pressure from the street and the country’s top cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Abdel Mahdi announced on Friday that he would submit his resignation to Parliament, due to meet on Sunday.
But demonstrations have not subsided, with crowds in the capital and across the south sticking to their weeks-long demand of complete government change.
“We’ll keep up this movement,” said one protester in the southern hotspot of Diwaniyah, where thousands turned out early on Saturday.
“Abdel Mahdi’s resignation is only the first step, and now all corrupt figures must be removed and judged,” he said.
Teenage protesters also held their ground in Baghdad, staring down security forces positioned behind concrete barriers to protect government buildings.
Hundreds also converged in the main protest camp in Nasiriyah’s city center and set tires ablaze on three bridges spanning the Euphrates River.
Iraq’s second holy city, Karbala, was rocked by overnight clashes with young protesters and security forces trading fire bombs until the early hours of the morning.
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