CAIRO, EGYPT - Iraqi security forces appeared to shoot at demonstrators Thursday during a third day of protests against corruption and unemployment. Demonstrators appeared to flout a curfew imposed by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to try and keep crowds from congregating near Baghdad's "Green Zone," where many government officials reside.
Amateur video broadcast by Arab media appeared to show Iraqi security forces firing live ammunition Thursday as crowds of mostly young protesters scattered along a major Baghdad thoroughfare. Crowds were smaller than a day earlier, following the imposition of a daytime curfew.
Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV showed wounded protesters being treated in a Baghdad hospital. The TV channel reported that several dozen people had been killed since protests erupted Tuesday over a lack of jobs and official corruption.
One young man complained to Arab media that Iraqi security forces were firing live rounds, showing journalists what appeared to be an ammunition casing. Another amateur video on social media showed a young man hit by a bullet lying in a pool of blood.
Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, told VOA that he thinks the protests are mostly spontaneous.
He said there were calls on social media for protests starting Tuesday over the lack of jobs for young people and government corruption. He pointed out that many Iraqis are also fed up with Iranian meddling in their country.
Former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, who leads a major Shi'ite political bloc, was reported to be "dismayed" by the protests and urged demonstrators to "control themselves."
Reports on social media claimed that internet service was reduced by 75% in Baghdad and that many people were having trouble posting video and other information to the net.
An Iraqi social scientist told al-Arabiya TV that the situation is "explosive" and activists are using social media outlets like Facebook to "make threats and provoke violence against just about anybody they don't like."